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‘Multinational companies aim to control world through seeds’

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New Delhi, July 03: The government on Tuesday was asked in the Parliament to clear its policy about the approval of Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

In a written reply, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told Lok Sabha that Bt. (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton is the only GM crop approved in 2002 by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for commercial cultivation in the Country and, therefore, cultivation of other unapproved GM crops are banned in India.

‘Multinational companies aim to control world through seeds’

He also admitted that illegal open cultivation of Bt. brinjal and Ht. (Herbicide-tolerant) cotton was reported in four states Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

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"State Governments have given the directions to all District Administration to take necessary legal steps to curb the production and selling of illegal GM crops," said the Minister.

GM crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world's crop lands are planted with GM crops.

In India, GM Crops are approved as per "Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989" under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

According to experts, there are as many as 20 GM crops already undergoing trails at various stages in India at a time when the GM crops are being opposed worldwide due to their ill effects on human health.

It was American agronomist and Father of Green Revolution late Norman Borlaug who inadvertently accepted that GM crops will lead to premature deaths.

During his India visit in 2005, Norman Borlaug said that it is better to die eating GM food instead of dying of hunger.

However, there is a difference of opinion over the GM crops in India.

Former President Pranab Mukerjee had exhorted Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to provide clarity on the sensitive issue of GM crops.

Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh once termed the opposition to GM crops as 'unscientific prejudices' and described biotechnology as key to food security.

MS Swaminathan, known for his role in India's Green Revolution, has also favoured GM Crops.

Scientists first discovered in 1946 that DNA can be transferred between organisms. The first GM plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. China was the first country to commercialize a transgenic crop in the early 1990s with the introduction of virus resistant tobacco.

Major companies interested in GM crops in India include Monsanto India, Mahyco ((Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) and BASF. The industry body - Association of Biotech Led Enterprises- Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) wants a progressive push to the march of GM technology in India.

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The GEAC in 2007, recommended the commercial release of Bt Brinjal, which was developed by Mahyco in collaboration with the Dharward University of Agricultural sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. But the initiative was blocked in 2010.

During Narendra Modi 1.0 government in July 2014, the GEAC approved 21 new varities of GM crops such as rice, wheat, maize and cotton for field trials.

In 2016, the Supreme Court stayed the approval of GEAC for the field trails of GM Mustard.

Experts say that when the world is up in arms against the GM crops, it seems India is covertly batting for GM farming.

"The government and pro-GM crop activists are not telling people real truth that GM crops are not only harmful to human beings but also to the environment. The farmers lose their sovereign right over seeds when they produce GM and hybrid crops as they are forced to buy new seeds for the next crop from multinational seed companies, which aim to control the world through seeds. It's a fact that when you control food you control society and when you control seeds you control life on earth," says an expert associated with Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

He says that all the on-going trials of GM crops should be stopped immediately in the country as if they get approval like Bt. Cotton then they will cut short the life span of future generations and though India will remain independent on papers but will be actually controlled by multinational seed and chemical companies.

"Less than 10 large corporations are moving towards controlling the world's food security. They decide prices, varieties, conditions of growth. They manage patents and intellectual property rights. They make agreements with governments and public institutions. And they have a strong influence on regulations, laws and treaties," says the expert.

He says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has got a mammoth majority and himself is a health freak, therefore it's expected of him that he will take care of Indians' health and slowly and steadily free India from the clutches of hybrid agriculture and return back the country to age-old faming practice wherein farmers were owners of their seeds.

He says if Prime Minister Modi is able to do it then future Indian generations will remain indebted.

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