Two powerful groups in the Sangh Parivar, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, have written to environment minister Prakash Javadekar demanding that he disband the ministerial committee that recently approved controversial field trials of genetically modified crops in India.
The field trials are to be held with genetically modified rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal. SJM, an economic wing of the Sangh Parivar that once represented a strident opposition to liberalisation and the free market, and BKS, the farmers’ union of the Parivar, earlier warned the government that they would disrupt any field trials. The ruling party at the centre, Bharatiya Janata Party, is the political wing of the Sangh Parivar.
“We have written to Prakash Javadekar to disband the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee that has approved the field trials of these GM crops,” Prabhakar Kelkar, general secretary of BKS, told Scroll on Monday. “We won’t allow the government to go ahead with the field trials of these crops.”
The GEAC met on July 18 and gave the green signal to field trials of certain GM crop varieties.
After the meeting, GEAC chairperson Hem Kumar Pande told the press that the new approvals were for the first stage of trials on one-acre plots and that unless research in Indian conditions was allowed, the viability of these crops would not be known. So far about 20 GM crops are at various stages of trial, he added.
“There will be unrest if the Environment Ministry approves the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee,” Kelkar said.
Soon after the GEAC approved the field trials of GM rabi crops, the BKS and the SJM were up in arms warning the government through press statements issued on July 19.
The statement released by the SJM flayed the government for deceiving people on GM crops. “The people of India who have elected the BJP to power are feeling deceived. They voted the BJP to power on the promises the party made to the people of India in its 2014 manifesto and speeches made by the leaders during the election.”
In its election manifesto, the BJP had said, “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.” The SJM statement pointed out that “neither the government nor the GEAC has disclosed, as yet, the contents of the promised scientific evaluation, if any, or what changed between April 7, 2014 [the day the BJP released its election manifesto] and July 18, 2014, when the field trials of GM food crops were approved.”
The SJM suspects that the Narendra Modi government is playing to the interests of private players.
SJM’s national co-convener Aswini Mahajan also joined the chorus against the committee. “The present Genetic Engineering Approval Committee is an objectionable body,” Mahajan told Scroll on Monday. “It must immediately be disbanded or reconstituted because it consists of the same people who were close to the previous government. We will also write to Prakash Javadekar to disband this committee,” he added.