Under the aegis of Organic Farmers Association of India (OFAI) a delegation on September 1, 2016 called upon the Union Minister of Agriculture, Sh Radha Mohan Singh and presented him with bottles of cold pressed oil of their own organic mustard along with a note that if he wishes to be able to use it in future too then his government must immediately put on hold the approval of GM mustard.
While issue of protocols regarding safety evaluation of GM crops and its commercial cultivation are under judicial review, Government, ignoring the concerns of various sections of society, is hurrying up to release GM mustard for cultivation during this very season. While all citizens will be adversely affected by its release as consumers, for organic farmers it will sound immediate death knell because all over the world including India, contamination by GM material is prohibited under organic standards. But once GM seeds of any crop are released into the environment, contamination of organic farms is impossible to avoid. If neighbouring farm plants GM crop, then legally and practically it is impossible to prevent outcrossing.
Delegation of organic farmers, particularly those cultivating mustard, from Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan brought to the notice of the Union Agriculture Minister the imminent threat to their status as organic farmers, right to free choice of farmers, seed autonomy and to biodiversity. A woman farmer Ms Neelam from Jhajjar, Haryana expressed her hope that the government will not display any double standards in this matter. She pointed out that government cannot promote traditional as well as organic farming on the one hand and approve GM crops like GM mustard on the other hand. It will not just destroy organic farming but also purity of centuries old traditional mustard varieties forever.
The delegation pointed out that India does not need GM mustard. Many non-GM hybrids and varieties of mustard are already available. In addition to this, all over the country including in home state of Minister, Bihar, system of root intensification which was initially developed for Rice has also given extremely good results in mustard. Increase in mustard yield by this method is much higher than (unconfirmed) yield increase that GM mustard promises.
The minister appraised the group that promotion of organic farming is an important measure taken up by the Government of India and that the Prime Minister is personally interested in this. The Minister shared with us the Centres plans to expand organic farming in the country. He assured that the interests of organic farmers will be taken care of. The delegation however questioned this pointing out that organic and GM are antithetical to each other and that they cannot co-exist. The group categorically requested that although regulation of GM crop comes under environment ministry, it is high time for Krishi Bhavan to intervene for the sustainable development of farming sector. It is worth noting that an organic shop was recently inaugurated by Minister Radhamohan Singh in Krishi Bhavan.
After meeting the Minister, the delegation expressed its deep concern about the current developments with GM mustard application with the Central regulators. They appreciated that being one of the host organizations, Krishi Bhavan has already geared its preparation for the Organic World Congress scheduled in Delhi in November, 2017. After learning the lessons of Green Revolution, the whole world is moving towards organic farming. In India, more than 13 states have organic farming policies in place. A representative of the group told the media that it is high time that India showed the world new path of agricultural development through its reach traditions and diversity. They expressed their deep hope that Government of India will not approve any more GM crops (cotton has been approved 14 years ago), and further disappoint the community of organic farmers and consumers. The group was hopeful that the minister will play leading role in due course to protect the interests of organic farmers in the context of GM crops.