Activists wanted extra time at GEAC meet, now levelling false allegations: Pro GM farmers

Rashtriya Kisan Progress Association has refuted claims made by activist, Kavitha Kuruganti and veteran scientists, Pushpa Bhargava on extra time granted to it during the GEAC meeting on genetically modified mustard, held at Delhi on June 20, 2016

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New Delhi: Huge number of farmers affiliated to Rashtriya Kisan Progress Association (RKPA) led by farmer leader, Mr P Chengal Reddy have came out opposing Ms Kavitha Kuruganti led Coalition of GM Free India’s claim that they were given only 10 minutes to present their case as compare to RKPA which was given 30 minutes at the recently concluded Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) meeting where future of GM Mustard was being decided. On June 20, 2016, the GEAC had invited both anti and pro GM groups to present their case before the expert committee.

Elaborating on his repose to allegations on favoritism by GEAC, Mr P Chengal Reddy, Head, Rashtriya Kisan Progress Association commented: “I am dismayed by the claims made by Ms Kavitha Kuruganti and Dr Pushpa Bhargava, that we were given more time to present our case during the recently held GEAC meeting where both parties were invited to present their opinion on GM Mustard. These acquisitions are completely false and baseless. We were invited for the first time by the GEAC.  GEAC is an unbiased body and gave both the parties an equal time of 10 minutes to present their views.  The anti GM activists wanted 2 hours which was denied and led to a walk out by them. If need be the records of the meeting can be verified with the GEAC who has documented the entire meeting.”

It is important to note that the GEAC has kept its decision to allow commercial cultivation of GM mustard on hold for now. The GM variant of mustard, called DMH11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11), has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at the Delhi University. It has already gone through Biosafety Research Level-1 (BRL-1) tests in 2011-12 and 2012-13, and through the BRL-2 tests in the 2014-15 season.

During the meeting P Chengal Reddy led team consisting of members- Ajit Narde, Rashtriya Progressive Kisan Association and Pawan Payal, Choudhary Chotu Ram Bhartiya Kisan Samiti spoke about how GM Mustard has the potential to increase farmer yield by 20 – 30 percent which is significant enough for the commercial cultivation of the crop. Additionally, this technology will reduce the import bills, increase farmer’s income and will bring more area under cultivation. “The hybrid if adopted could bring a total additional benefit to farmers between Rs 162 crores to Rs. 1118 crores during the peak cultivation season,” claim the pro GM farmers.

“Even from a national perspective GM Mustard will help in increasing the country’s revenue through exports, something which we saw after Bt Cotton got approved in 2002. India became world`s largest exporter of cotton from an importer with 90 percent of the cotton cultivation area being under Bt Cotton,” they mentioned while making a point at the GEAC meet.

Earlier Rashtriya Progressive Kisan Association(RKPA) had submitted a petition consisting of 1, 38,313 signatures of farmers from 16 states to Mr Prakash Javadekar Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Mr Mohanbhai Kundariya, Union Agriculture Minister of State and other bureaucrats in favour of GM Mustard.

RKPA has also written a letter to GEAC Chairman for immediate release of GM Mustard as it believes that farmers have the right to try all new technologies that will benefit the farming community.