Anti GM mustard protest is anti-national: ABLE-AG’s letter to PM

The Association of Biotechnology Enterprises, in a letter to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has accused the anti genetically modified mustard activists of unnecessary fear mongering to derail indigenous scientific research

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New Delhi: In a letter dated August 03, 2017, written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) has called the anti-genetically modified crops activists as anti-national as it accused them of doing fear mongering to derail indigenous scientific research. In fact the letter requested the prime minister to take strong action against the activists.

This letter seems to be a reaction by the ABLE-AG to an earlier one written by 34 medical experts who had asked the Prime Minister to reject the environmental release” of GM mustard, stating that the country should not be forced to face the risks and dangers associated with the crop.

ABLE-AG in its letter to the prime minister stressed that GM mustard has been tested extensively and has undergone all checks by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee which found it safe for human consumption and the environment. The latest stated, “This is extremely unfortunate that medical professionals of their stature are misguiding the public by fear mongering about GM mustard under the influence of anti-national activists who are keen to derail indigenous scientific research for agriculture biotechnology”.

While stressing on the need for allowing GM mustard, the ABLE-AG’s latest letter to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has also demanded strong action against those it considers as anti-GM scaremongers. 

In its letter, the ABLE-AG has also made references to the thriving GM canola oil industry in Canada, USA and Austrailia. It states that the GM technology is not new and the rapeseed/canola are the sister crops of GM Mustard and were deregulated in Canada in 1995, US in 2002 and Austraila in 2003. It goes on to stress that Canada has been using the same for last 18 years without any safety issues and how the Japan without even producing GM crops is the top importer of the oil. The letter also mentions that India has been already importing the GM canola oil without any safety issues so far. The letter has also mentions the Bt Brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh and gives examples of Pakistan and China as well.

The letter called the claims made by few medical experts that GM mustard is a herbicide-tolerant organism as completely unfounded. “We further like to highlight that the claim made by these ill-informed people that ample evidence is available that GM foods have adverse effects is false… we would like to urge you to take disciplinary action against these people for generating false propaganda,” the letter said.

Currently, the matter is hanging fire both in government as well as the top judicial circles. On the government’s side, the environment minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan holds the key to pass or fail, and on the judiciary’s side, the Supreme Court of India seems to be the final decision maker under current context.

While the issue of GM crops is not new but the latest controversy around GM mustard began in early 2017 when GEAC on 11 May recommended approval for commercial production of GM mustard developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.

However, the anti-GM activists who had approached the Supreme Court argued that proper procedures were not followed by GEAC while giving its go-ahead and that GM mustard will be harmful to health. The top court only last week sought a response and definite timeline from the union government which in turn stated that it will decide on the commercial roll out of GM mustard by mid-September, 2017.