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Genetically Modified Mustard may be disastrous for India’s Agricultural Independence: Study

The government must realize that if it does not recognize civil society protests of that magnitude then it's a loss of name for it. This is how a revolution begins

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Mustard Plantation. Pixabay

Sept 24, 2016: Noted molecular biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava on Saturday said the commercial cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard would be “disastrous” as it would eventually open the doors for multinational corporations to control India’s agriculture.

“It’s a disaster. If you permit it then you open the floodgates for other GM crops. Our agriculture will be in the hands of multinational corporations like Bayer. We will lose our independence. I think civil society must protest as much as they can,” Bhargava said.

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Recently, environmentalist Vandana Shiva wrote to parliamentarians from mustard growing states cautioning them against commercialisation of GM mustard. Arguing on grounds of seed sovereignty, Shiva alleged “unfair activities” of MNCs like Monsanto and Bayer, and demanded to enact of liability laws before the GM mustard is commercialised.

GM mustard, if it doesn’t face any public resistance, could become India’s first GM food crop released for cultivation by regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

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Asked about the reaction of civil society members and activists to the GM crop, Bhargava, the Supreme Court appointed the member of GEAC said: “The government must realize that if it does not recognize civil society protests of that magnitude then it’s a loss of name for it. This is how a revolution begins.”

An Environment Ministry sub-committee report declared the GM mustard technology safe for consumption and environment, saying that it does not raise any public health concerns for human beings and animals, but environmentalists are not satisfied and have been demanding that the ministry should make all the documents on the study available.

The ministry has put the subcommittee’s 133-page “Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety of GE mustard” (AFES) online and invited public comments before the GEAC takes the final decision on GM mustard. Comments can be submitted till October 5.

“My general impression, therefore, of this AFES report, is that most of the important conclusions that have been drawn have been arrived at on the basis of insufficient data and inadequate experimentation,” said Bhargava, former and founding director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

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The transgenic crop, Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi.

Currently, GM cotton is the only transgenic crop commercially available in fields.

Scientists who were involved in the engineering of the mustard claim it is “benign” and also beneficial for farmers as it is more high-yielding. (IANS)

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Environmental volcano waiting to erupt: Parliament panel head

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New Delhi: An “environmental volcano” is waiting to erupt but the NDA government has not taken any significant action since it came to power, Congress MP Ashwani Kumar, who heads a parliamentary panel on environment, said on Saturday.

“The environment ministry has a huge responsibility consistent with its massive mandate to secure the future of India. I am sorry to point out that in the last 15 months, nothing new has been done to address the challenges that were known to the ministry,” Ashwani Kumar said at a press conference over the reports tabled by the committee.

“We (the committee) have said that whatever logistical difficulties of the ministry are there should be corrected. The ministry should be helped in discharging its mandate. But there is absolutely no excuse for inaction,” he told reporters.

“An environmental volcano is ready to erupt anytime… the environment ministry cannot escape responsibility,” he said.

The panel, which submitted 15 reports, has recommended formation of a new committee to consider afresh specific areas of environmental policy after it found the objections raised by experts on the proposals of a high-level committee constituted to review green laws as “valid”.

One of its reports said India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 76 of the 150 major rivers were polluted, and that 83 percent of the ground water was contaminated.

(IANS)

 

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Make all records of stalled Polavaram project public: CIC to Environment Ministry

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Environment Ministry was recently advised by the Central Information Commission to disclose all the reports related to Rs 16,000-crore stalled Polavaram dam project on its website after explaining to an RTI applicant that tracing all the documents of last ten decades will be very intricate.

The RTI applicant named, Suresh Kumar, an environment scientist, asked the ministry to reveal all the relevant documents relating to the impact assessment of the controversial project in Andhra Pradesh but was later advised that it will be very difficult to locate all the documents.

According to Kumar, the website has breached Section 4 (1)(b) of the RTI Act as it doesn’t have any information about the abandoned project that led him to file an RTI.

A Ministry official in defense, claimed that all the allegations were false, since most of the information was available on the website.  The official however, said that some documents were still awaiting digitization and that they would be posted on the website soon.

“The delay was the result of external pressures such as other projects, court cases before the Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal, and High Court besides Parliament related works”, he said.

Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said, “The Commission agreed with the contentions of the appellant that the ‘failure to trace records’ would not exempt the public authority from their duty to provide the information sought.”

“The Commission also directs the PIO to furnish copies of environmental clearance given at the first instance, and also file notings, correspondences along with minutes of meetings when the issue of environmental clearance was revisited for Indira Sagar Polavaram project in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh,” Acharyulu said.

Therefore, the Information Commissioner directed the Ministry to post all the available facts and details of Polavaram project on their official web page.

The project has been regarded as a national project by the central government as it will provide water for both dam and irrigational purposes. The project attained much attention when Odisha and Chhattisgarh argued that the project was flooding their land.