Monday, June 21, 2010

Citizens oppose state government’s favourable stand on GM Maize in Punjab

Press Release
Badal pushing poison to favour multinational and foreign interest: Activists
Citizens oppose state government’s favourable stand on GM Maize in Punjab

June 18, 2010

Eminent citizens, Farmers’ Unions’ representatives and environmental activists from Punjab today questioned the reported government stand in favour of GM crops, reflected in the support sought for Bt Maize by the Chief Minister's delegation to Planning Commission a few days ago. They demanded that the CM explain on what basis/scientific evidence and through what process of decision-making did the government take this stand for the state of Punjab which is already reeling under a severe environmental health crisis and paying a heavy price for its short-sighted vision for farming in the state.

Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission said that “GM Maize, as latest scientific studies show, results in adverse health effects including ones associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs; other effects were noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. He quoted the 2009 study by Spiroux et al to support his contention and highlighted that in another study by Dr. Zollac involving GM Maize, transgenic seeds responded differentially to the same environment as compared to their respective isogenic controls, as a result of the genome rearrangement derived from gene insertion, pointing to unintended changes”. Dutt also mentioned that in an official study done by the Austrian government, it was found that GM maize was linked to infertility and reproductive health effects.
He further stated that “The state government, especially the BJP constituents of the government, have to explain their role and stand in this decision of the government to seek support for GM crops. How do they explain this when many BJP-ruled states are clearly directing their state agriculture towards sustainable farming? If the BJP constituents in the government have not been consulted in this process, the CM has to explain how this decision was possible and how does this reflect the stand of the coalition government. It is surprising that even in states where Congress or UPA constituent parties are ruling, the governments, in consultation with farmers' organisations, scientists and civil society groups have taken a cautious stand against this controversial and unproven technology, while the Punjab government (in a state where agricultural technologies have left their adverse effects) is clearly going against common people.”

Questioning the intention of the Punjab CM, social activist Hemant Goswami said that it was apparent that the CM and his family were favoring the industry for reasons best known to them, and they are not at all bothered about the welfare of the people and the farmers in specific. “The Punjab Government is pushing poison down the throat of people of Punjab. I also challenge the partner in Punjab Government, BJP, to clarify its stand on genetically modified crops. We want to know what the Punjab BJP thinks on the issue since other BJP-ruled states are clearly taking a stand against GM technology and we have a coalition government with BJP here. The whole world knows about the harms of Genetically Modified crops, there are reams of scientific documents on this. Still, the Badals are trying to push foreign interest over farmers’ welfare. Punjab farmers are suffering high rates of cancer and other diseases due to unsustainable and unscientific perspectives of the Government. In such a scenario, when Punjab should be pushing for organic and bio-fertilisers, it is inviting an even-bigger disaster in the name of Bt and genetically modified (GM) crops. Punjab should even withdraw Bt Cotton but it appears that Punjab is still to learn from its past mistakes. Such a short-sighted approach will surely put the Punjab farmers and people on an irreversible suicidal path.” Hemant added.

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, General Secretary, Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan lamented this move and said, "Farmers have been looted and plundered by the MNCs in the name of modern technologies like hybrids and agri-chemicals; now, the Genetically Modified (GM) nexus is further trying to entrap us on the basis of many false claims. Bhartiya Kisan Union opposes the move vehemently".

Neeraj Atri of Bharat Swabhiman Trust mentioned that “Bt is promoted with the claim that it offers resistance against some pests. It does not reduce water consumption or offer better yield than our natural maize. In terms of environmental effects, Bt Maize is shown to simply swap one pest with another as a study from the USA shows. Further, some Bt Maize varieties have been shown to be susceptible to aphid infestation. GM Maize, including herbicide tolerant maize as with other GM crops, is shown to increase overall chemical use in farming and this is leading to resistant weeds in countries like the USA. This will pose more problems for Punjabi farmers than the solution it is purported to be.”

Balkar Singh Dakunda, President, Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta Punjab said, “It is clear that the government is being run with a short-sighted vision with regard to agriculture and agricultural livelihoods in the state. The Bt in Cotton and Maize could in fact worsen the water situation in Punjab. Citing a few scientific studies Balkar Singh mentioned that leaves or grain from Bt maize have proved to be toxic to aquatic life if it enters streams, by way of dead leaves or grain. So instead of helping people, it can actually spoil the existing water sources too.”

Hemant Goswami further demanded that Manpreet Badal should explain his role in the siphoning off of about 80 crores in the name of experimenting with organic farming. Instead of seriously trying the option of organic farming, it has been reported that crores were spent on the farms of politicians and bureaucrats in the name of organic farming and the rest was siphoned off. “We should understand that the Punjab Government is deliberately making these schemes related to organic farming fail so that there is no option left other than purchasing patented seeds, insecticides and fertilisers from big MNCs. Corruption in the name of organic farming also has a long term effect of weakening the agriculture sector and provide a justification for helping the seed and chemical companies.” Hemant emphasised.
We ask the following questions to the Punjab Chief minister—
1. Is this decision his personal decision or a decision of the Cabinet?
2. Is this decision based on the recommendations of any broad-based body which has representation of scientists, medical experts, farmers’ unions, civil society representatives and consumer groups? If no-why not? If yes which one?
3. Has any committee of scientists given any report on which his decision is based? Such a decision has to be based on the recommendations of Experts including from the fields of Agriculture, Health, Veterinary science, Environment and Peoples Organisations like Peasants, Consumers and NGOs.
4. Has the government studied the whole controversy which is going on in the whole world regarding GM Crops, including trade security implications, the scientific debates etc.?
5. Is this issue (bringing in GM Food Crops) a state matter or a national matter?
6. Does Mr. Badal know that the final agenda of the corporations bringing GM seeds is for MNCs to take total control over Indian agriculture, throwing the peasantry out of the agriculture?
Eminent social activist Dr Gaurav Chhabra and Onkar Chand , R K Kaplash Chairman , Consumer Coordination Council also aired their views.

For Further Information, Please Contact:

Neeraj Atri
Tel: +91-9417111427

Umendra Dutt
Tel: +91-9872682161

Hemant Goswami
Tel: + 91-9779261733

For Alliance for GM Free and Safe Foods


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