Even as RSS-supported organisations such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch opposed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)’s green signal to commercially cultivate genetically modified mustard, Left wing farmers’ organisation All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) welcomed the development. AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah, however, said the control of the technology should remain with the governments and the public sector and extensive testing of the hybrid seed must be done by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).
Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a function to release the logo of AIKS’s national conference to be held in Thrissur in December, Mr. Mollah said his organisation is not against GM crops. “We are not against science. We have to utilise technology to increase production. In India, with a huge population, we need to increase our production. Technology must be used for this. Our objection is different. If the technology is given by the corporate houses, they prepare the products according to their needs. It will create problems,” he said.
Mr. Mollah added that the AIKS wants extensive testing of the hybrid seeds by public sector laboratories to assess the impact on the soil, other plants and on the lives of animals and humans. “Now, the hybrid seed will be tested by the ICAR. It is government’s research wing. They cannot cheat the people. They will have to come to the people with the results of the testing. If it is not harmful, we have no objection. After the tests, if it is established that hybrids seeds are not harmful and helps in increasing the yield, the government should allow its cultivation,” Mr. Mollah added.
On BT cotton, he said, farmers have been demanding for pest resistant varieties. “The government should find out where things went wrong and it must be rectified. Due to BT cotton, production has increased. But the complaint of the farmers on pest attacks must be addressed by the government,” he said.
Industries have also generally welcomed the decision on BT mustard. Pankaj Dwivedi, Head of Agronomy, nurture.farm, a start-up, cultivation of GM cotton has helped India to became the second-largest producer of cotton in the world. “Similarly, we need to determine how GM mustard will boost domestic production and lessen our reliance on imports. As India’s agricultural acreage decreases due to rapid urbanisation and unpredictable weather that jeopardises the production of staple foods like rice and wheat, many scientists and agricultural experts have called for faster clearance of GM crops. Only after a thorough scientific assessment of GM crops’ advantages and safety should the crops be made available to the general public,” Mr. Dwivedi said.