Shimla: A group of social organizations has come together and pledged to work towards keeping Himachal free of genetically modified crops. Deer Park Institute, Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Bharat Swabhiman Nyas and Lok Vigyan Kendra have teamed up to initiate this coalition that would try to garner the support of other organizations, public and decision makers for keeping Himachal GM-free. Also present for the occasion was Umendra Dutt, who is associated with Coalition for GM-free India and Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab.
As a first event by the group on May 14, an interactive session would held in Shimla, which would be be attended by Dr PM Bhargava, an independent observer on Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, that had recommended Bt Brinjal for commercial cultivation last year. He would later address a press conference at the Shimla Press Club. Dr Bhargava has also been the vice-chair of the National Knowledge Commission and the founder-director of Canter for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
Speaking on the occasion, Dutt said that the nation had overwhelmingly rejected the attempt to commercialise Bt Brinjal last year but international seed and food giants were constantly pushing genetic engineering technologies which, in many instances, had proven to be detrimental to human and animal health. “This has to be fought at every level possible and as a pro-active move, states that environmentally conscious, were declaring a moratorium on the cultivation of GM crops in their area. A state like Himachal Pradesh should be especially weary of such dubious technology as being expensive, it would further marginalize the small hill farmer and increase the use of pesticides and undermine the rich crop biodiversity of the hill state. The GM technology also has the potential to contaminate the rich forest bio-diversity on account of genetic contamination which, if initiated once, could become self perpetuating and an ever spreading process, said Dutt. It should be noted that Himachal Pradesh contains 7.32 percent of the national biodiversity with wide variety flora and fauna,” he said.
The safety of GM foods for human consumption has not been conclusively proven and till the time it passes all long-term bio-safety tests, this technology should be limited to the scale of a safe lab, said Kulbhusan Upmanyu of Himalaya Bachao Samiti.