It is a sad day for India when the highest court in the country, contrary to the recommendations of its own technical expert committee (TEC) succumbed to the half truths and untenable claims put forward by the GOI and allowed to continue with trials involving genetically modified food crops. Of course one consolation is that the apex court did not hand out a total clearance for the trials but wanted its TEC to look into the governments claims and put before it for a decision in six weeks time. Those antagonists of GM food crops have been waging a war on GM crops convincingly claim that research in this area is fraught with many dangers which are difficult to anticipate with to day's limited knowledge. Two of the most contested claims of GM food lobbyists are that GM food crops are safe for human consumption and GM crop cultivation will not contaminate the environment leading to extinction of the original strains of plants on which mankind was depending heavily for survival.
One of the most blatant lies uttered by the government attorney before the honorable court is that GM technology will increase yield of food crops dramatically and only with this technology the country can manage to meet the target for food production that is required to feed the nation adequately! No where in the history of agriculture so far any scientist has proved that GM technology can increase production and only losses due to pests can be minimized which in turn may reflect on the over all yield, that too marginally. Almost all countries in this planet who produce much more food than India with lesser acreage have achieved the same without recourse to GM technology. If India is stuck at the bottom of the list of land productivity the reason is not far to seek and the first Green Revolution which was hailed at that time turned out to be a game changer in destroying the soil health across the farm lands in this country using liberally chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The fact of the matter is that it may take ages to recondition the farm land health before productivity can be raised substantially.
At this juncture one must ask the most pertinent question as to why Government of India did not allow genetically modified Bt Brinjal into the country if it was so sure about its safety to the consumer and environment? It was done after extensive consultation by the then Minister for Environment who came to the conclusion that enough data was not available to clear the new GM Brinjal for country wide cultivation. Citing the example of the US where 80% of the products available in the market in that country contain one or more GM ingredients does not become relevant in India because American consumers are being fed these foods without them actually knowing about it! By now it is well established that the American government which is influenced in its every food policy decision by powerful GM crop lobby consisting of monolithic giants who have invested billions of dollars in developing most of the GM crops. The oft repeated claim that in spite of using GM foods and ingredients derived from them, Americans have not come to harm so far, is not sustainable when the ground reality is that more than two thirds of the population there are sick due to over weight, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other afflictions and till to day no one has been able to conclusively prove that massive consumption of GM food, day in and day out, has not contributed to this sorry situation.
Coming to the contention of the attorney of the government before the honorable court, one can understand the extent of deception by listening to his sworn statement before the Supreme court which is reproduced below: "The government pleaded that recommendation of the apex court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) for banning field trials of the GM crops be rejected as the use of biotechnology in agriculture can bring second green revolution in the country. "Revolution have been saturated at the producer and consumer level and the methods of conventional breeding are showing very marginal increase in yield. Further, the use of inputs like fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation schemes is expensive and unsustainable. Hence biotechnology could bring in a second green revolution," the Centre said. Appearing before a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, Attorney General G E Vahanvati contended that field trial should be allowed to go on as the demand of food for growing population could be met only through the GM crops. "...Bearing in mind the far reaching implications of this matter on food security and the pressing requirement of continuation of the ongoing research on application of GM technology in improving agriculture productivity and production, it is humbly prayed that the proposed recommendation of the interim report of TEC to impose ban on field trials should be rejected outright," the Centre said in its affidavit". Opposing the TEC's recommendations, the Centre contended that genetic method is the only way for increasing the farm output to ensure food security in the country. "There is a need to increase food grain production from the current estimated supply of 257 million tonnes to 345 million tonnes by 2030. With no further possibility of increasing Net Sown Area, the only recourse left to meet the requirements of country's food security is through increase in productivity."
What is interesting in the above statement is that the government was trying to confuse the court by using the word "biotechnology" interchangeably with GM technology which is not ethical as GM technology is just one branch of biotechnology which is a marvelous tool in the hands of scientists to do hundred and one things for the benefit of mankind. If a government is bent on riding piggy back on American GM lobby without considering the vital interests of the Indian population by allowing the GM crop giants to set shop in the country, it will be a sad day for the country whose agricultural diversity is likely to be destroyed and the health of the people, most of them poor with sub-optimal health conditions, to be further jeopardized.