Amid strong protests by from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the Maharashtra government has stayed open field trials in genetically modified lines of rice, chana, maize, brinjal and cotton in the state.
The government has referred objections and comments received from various stakeholders to a high-level committee headed by nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar. The committee is slated to meet on July 15 to discuss feedback and make its recommendations.
The government, which is striving to cope up with drought conditions in several districts, is not in an hurry for restoration of these trials till the Kakodkar committee submits its report.
After assuming power in October 31 last year, the BJP-led government had continued the Congress-NCP government’s policy and allowed field trials on small plots of one hectare or less to collect data on the potential safety of GM crop lines.
Raju Shetti, chief of BJP ally Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, and NCP president Sharad Pawar have supported GM crop trials.
Kakodkar confirmed discontinuation of field trials of GM crop lines. “The government had received feedback from various stakeholders and made its reference to the committee, which will look into them. The committee will meet soon,” he told Business Standard.
A government official admitted a decision on resumption of field trials would be taken after the government received the Kakodkar committee's opinion.
SJM national executive member Anil Gachke said GM seeds were terminated genes and could not be ploughed back. Farmers needed to purchase them every year at higher prices, he pointed out. ''GM seeds need a high quantity of water. Besides, after three to four years GM seeds do not resist pests, which ultimately leads to more demand for fertilisers and pesticides,'' he noted.
BKS national organising secretary Dinesh Kulkarni said, “The BKS is of the view that such trials should be done in laboratories. These tests should also find out the impact of GM crop lines on the environment, human beings and animals.”
Both the SJM and BKS indicated they would step up their movement against GM crop trials unless the government satisfied their concerns.