Protest draws farmers from 20 states

1. GM mustard protests intensify: Congress, AAP, Left, JD-U & RSS join hands
2. We don’t need GM Mustard, support us with better market price: Farmer groups

1. GM mustard protests intensify: Congress, AAP, Left, JD-U, & RSS join hands

Catch Team
Catch News, 25 October 2016

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) shared the stage with farm activists to protest against genetically modified mustard, which the government is planning to introduce. Janata Dal (United) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's speech rejecting GM Mustard was played on video, while AAP minister Kapil Mishra and Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi addressed the protests.

The environment ministry is considering allowing GM Mustard for commercial cultivation, the second such GM crop since Bt Cotton. GM Mustard has been developed by the University of Delhi.

The protest saw representation from hundreds of farmers from 20 states including Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and West Bengal, and members of nearly 130 organisations including All India Kisan Sabha, Bhartiya Kisan Union, New Trade Union Initiative, RSS's Swadeshi Jagram Manch and farmers wing Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, besides Organic Farming Association of India, Confederation of Beekeeping Industry of India, Greenpeace India and Coalition for GM-Free India.

They alleged that GM Mustard will be harmful to farmers, and that the government has not been transparent in the process of clearing it for cultivation. Grouped as "Sarso Satyagraha", the protestors also sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an appeal to reject GM Mustard.

"Our urgent concern about GM Mustard has brought us from 20 states to the national capital," the letter said, outlining their objections to claims of safety and productivity of the GM variety. They also said that the government has ignored the impact of GM Mustard on honey production, organic farming and ayurveda.

Farmer leaders at the protest said that mustard production cannot be solved by introducing GM and hybrid crops but by ensuring good selling price to the farmers. "GM Mustard is not going to help raise prices. With a good price, production will go up with existing seeds," said Chaudhary Rakesh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.

"The experience with GM crops is that local varieties get wiped out and farmers become dependent on buying commercial seeds. GM is not a solution if a farmer is exploited. Besides, mustard is consumed everyday by lakhs of families so we can't even take 0.01% risk with it," said Yudhvir Singh, Convenor, Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements

"The way the government is introducing GM Mustard is reminiscent of the East India Company when it introduced a variety of jowar seeds that harmed farmers," said Ratanlal Daga, a leader with the RSS farmer wing Bhartiya Kisan Sangh.

"The BJP thinks that all these farmers are against development. But the truth is that farmers are the most progressive," said Congress's Gaurav Gogoi, who is a Congress Member of Parliament from Assam.

AAP leader and Delhi's tourism and water minister Kapil Mishra also objected to the introduction of GM Mustard.

The decision to allow GM Mustard rests with the environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

A technical panel of the GEAC had on 5 September published a report saying that GM Mustard is safe for human and animal consumption. This report was open for public comments until 5 October. The entire bio-safety dossier of GM Mustard was also opened for public viewing at the ministry headquarters in New Delhi. The public comments were sent to the technical panel for consideration.

Still, environment minister Anil M Dave has the final call. He can reject the proposal even if the GEAC is in favour, like former minister Jairam Ramesh did with the proposal for Bt. Brinjal.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on 7 October stayed the commercial release of GM Mustard until it hears arguments in a public interest litigation.

2. We don’t need GM Mustard, support us with better market price: Farmer groups

Jayashree Nandi
Time of India, Oct 25, 2016

More than 100 organisations representing farmer unions, trade unions, civil society groups and political parties are protesting the government's plans to commercially release genetically modified (GM) Mustard. On Tuesday a large number of representatives from all of these organisations under the banner "sarson satygraha" gathered at Jantar Mantar to pledge and declare that they will continue to fight efforts to introduce GM crops in India.

Yudhvir Singh, national coordinator of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and member of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement said, "Farmers are here because they don't want to lose control over the seed. The traditional seeds will disappear from the market when GM Mustard is introduced. After introduction of Bt cotton, about 3,400 traditional varieties of cotton disappeared. They may be in the government's gene bank but not with farmers anymore," adding that "the farmers' problem is not production. We don't need GM technology because farmers can produce enough and more. Their problem is marketing and protection in the market. Because they don't get a fair price in the market, they are affected. Why isn't the government addressing that? Why is it focused on GM technology?"

Among national organisations—All India Agricultural Workers Union, All India Kisan Sabha, All India Trade Union Congress among trade unions, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Jai Kisan Andolan, Kisan Ekta, Kisan Maha Panchayat, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Right to Food campaign , Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) affiliated Swadeshi Jagaran Manch are leading the movement. This apart there are farmers organisations from nearly all states. Farmers groups also have support from political personalities and parties. Earlier, Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar, Rajasthan CM, Vasundhara Raje, Kerala Agriculture minister, VS Sunil Kumar, Delhi water minister, Kapil Mishra, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader, Ambumani Ramadoss, CPI secretary D Raja area among those who have either opposed the introduction of GM Mustard or made public remarks questioning the move.

On Tuesday, all the 120 or more organisations under Sarson Satygraha wrote to PM Narendra Modi explaining their concerns about GM Mustard. "The mustard hybrids already in the market obver the past decade did not increase the production and yield in the country or reduce oil imports. The area under mustard cultivation has actually been decreasing because farmers are finding it unremunerative due to market and climatic factors. Ensuring better market price will go a long way in increasing production..." it read.