Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Date : 13-05-2017
Shri Anil Madhav Dave,
Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change,
Government of India.
SUB: REJECT GM MUSTARD COMMERCIALISATION APPLICATION
We are writing to you from the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, which is a network of farmers’ movements that is committed to dignity and self-respect for farmers. Several of our members also are part of the international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina. We represent thousands of villages in South India and hundreds of thousands of farming families. Our member movements, such as Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, have taken staunch action against the giant enemies of farmers since it’s founding in the 1980s (For example Operation Cremate Monsanto in 1993, which created an international fervor). We have, and continue to, reject the so-called benefits of GMOs to our farmers, environment, and citizens. Last March 2014 we occupied the home of Union Minister Veerappa Moily after he gave a sweeping approval to GM trials, and we continue this fight even under the new government; we will not hesitate to take to the streets to make stand that GM is a dangerous bargain known to the world.
We are deeply dismayed and disappointed with the decision of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to recommend genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard developed by the Delhi University for commercial cultivation. We understand that the decision with regard to approval or rejection will now be taken by you.
We urge you to reject this application in toto and not approve this GM HT mustard which has no utility for farmers and is in fact against our economic interests. This GM mustard engineered with herbicide tolerance trait will only benefit the large agro-chemical corporations like Bayer, which are seeking to expand markets for their poisonous chemicals (glufosinate herbicide in this case), and lock us into the package of external seed supply with associated pesticides.
The reason being cited for introducing this crop is better oilseed production through higher yields. In reality, this GM mustard yields lower than many recent, popular hybrids and varieties. The testing has been rigged to have favourable results for this unsafe GMO. Some of us who participated in a special GEAC meeting have found that the regulators are biased, unscientific and even lack integrity required.The GEAC has ignored all the many valid questions raised by scientists and others and chose to function in an unscientific and biased fashion. By clearing GM mustard, the GEAC has shown itself to be anti-science, anti-farmers, anti-environment and anti- consumers.
Genetically modified crops are a threat to the livelihoods of the farmers of the nation; one threat among many, in truth. The proliferation of GM crops will transfer the ecological wealth that farmers conserve and protect to the bank accounts of profit-hungry corporate interests. The privatization of seed and the property rights associated with Genetically Modification Organisms is a dangerous weapon against farmers who can be sued by corporations for “infractions” and a push towards acute economic distress. It is also an affront on the sovereignty of our nation and our right to control our own biological diversity.
Regarding GM mustard, and other oil seeds, after the Rajiv Gandhi Oil Seed Mission, you may recall that India was nearly self sufficient in oil seeds. Only after that, in 1994, when cheap oil imports began after liberalization, the local market was crushed and our self sufficiency was eroded. Now, proponents of GM Mustard claim that it will increase yield and reduce our imports! We urge you to address the root cause of the issues, asymmetrical and harmful trade agreements and the project of neo-liberalisation, than stick to the ‘growth for growth’s sake’ propaganda that helps line the MNC’s pockets with profits.
However, this is not just about oil seeds. We are concerned about the environment, which affects farmers, consumers, and other agricultural producers and the urban poor alike. GM crops are designed to be grown in a mono-culture, chemical input-intensive, large scale manner. Industrial agricultural is environmental suicide. This is not an exaggeration – more than 50% of greenhouse gases are produced through this unsustainable, illogical, and corporate-driven system. Climate change is real, and it is has already started. Conflicts such as the war in Syria can be traced to climate-related migration. If we do not halt climate change we will not only see the destruction of our planet but the destruction of global harmony as we know it.
This is why we take action to promote small scale farming, as a solution to climate change and as a necessary ingredient to a self-sustaining and resilient India. Agriculture is more than just an industry whose profits can be maximized and its costs reduced: it is a way of life, a social structure, a collaboration with nature, and, first and foremost, the only method for us to feed ourselves. We promote peasant agroecology by saving our local seeds, strengthening our local economies and carrying for our unique ecological systems. We defend our seed sovereignty as an essential piece here: seed is patrimony, developed by generations of farmers through their intellectual labour. All the varieties of mustard that we have today have been developed by farmers over time. India is a Center for Diversity for mustard, and perhaps even a center of origin. 12,755 accessions of rapeseed mustard are available in India according to Directorate of Rapeseed Mustard Research of Indian Council of Agriculture Research. Introducing GM Mustard is a threat to this biodiversity as farmers increase market dependency and stop saving seed.
The food supply being contaminated by GM crops is a risk we farmers are not willing to take. Long-term, independent studies to verify the safety of GM crops have not been completed. The studies which exist were completed by the corporations themselves: how can the sick man be his own doctor? In countries such as the United States, citizens are unaware that 90% of their food is genetically modified and are rushing to get it labeled. Corporations are blocking them. Citizens want to know if their food is safe. Why are the corporations so scared if they have nothing to hide? India can go one step further by stopping the invasion of GM crops before it is too late. Before we are another example of a country who jumped on the “technology” wagon without realizing it was a doomed journey.
GM crops are an unproven technology, which has not stood the test of scientific rigor. They are an unnecessary addition of pressure into a system that is already squeezing the farmer dry. And they are an unchangeable relinquishment of national sovereignty to corporate interests that will threaten our food supply and our ability to control our own food chain. In short, the case for GM crops is weak, though the vested interests are strong.
We are shocked to see BJP deviating from its Manifesto and its National Executive’s Resolution on Agriculture that condemned GM crops and clearly demands moratorium on it and following the path of its predecessor in betraying the interests of farmers. We hope that you stand for what you promised us and demonstrate the self-respect that we demand of our state’s farmers.
We strongly oppose and urge you to take these points into consideration, to stop and reject the approval of the GM Mustard and all other GM field trials. In doing so you avoid the irreparable damage that GMOs will cause to our food sovereignty.
Yudhvir Singh , General Secretary, All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM)
K T Gangadhar, Coordinator, South India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (SICCFM) and State President, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesman, Bharath Kisan Union
ChamarasaMali Patil, Hon. President, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
KS Puttannaiha, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
ChukkiNanjundaswamy, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
Vijay Jawandhia,, Shetkari Sangathana,, Maharashtra
C S. Kannaiyan, Secretary, South India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (SICCFM)
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Punjab
Jagdish Singh, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Madhya Pradesh
Vidyadhar Olkha, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Rajasthan
Ratan Singh Mann, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Haryana
Sukhdev Singh Gill, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Himachal Pradesh
Satnam Singh Cheema, State President, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Uttrakhand
Dhan Singh Sherawat, Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU), Maharashtra
Gurman Singh, Bhartiya Kissan Union, Haryana
K. Sella Mutthu, President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
Nallagounder, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
Rajariga, President, Women Wing, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
M.S. Selvaraj, VivasaigalThoilarlagalMunnetra Sangam (VTMS)
CK Janu, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha
DevisonA.K, Kerala Coconut Farmers Association
P Raveendranath, Kerala Coconut Farmers Association