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Bharatiya Kisan Sangh opposes GM tech in oilseeds

BKS members have said that the use of GM technology in mustard is not required as it does not enhance production Ritu Raj Konwar - Ritu Raj Konwar

Union’s delegation meets Maharashtra CM Fadnavis

The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has vehemently opposed the genetical modification (GM) technology in agriculture, especially in oilseeds. A delegation of BKS met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday. Its members have said that the use of GM technology in mustard is not required as it does not enhance production.

The development comes at a time when the High Powered Committee of Chief Ministers, constituted for transformation for Indian agriculture by the BJP government, has been looking at various technologies, including GM, for increasing yield of oilseeds.

Dinesh Kulkarni, All-India Organising Secretary of BKS, told BusinessLine that GM and its impact on the environment and socio-economic needs of the society need to be studied further.

A thorough study is needed on the technology, but today raw and unverified data are being pushed in the scientific circles and it is on these grounds that BKS is opposing the GM technology, he said.

The High Powered Committee of Chief Ministers held its second meeting in Mumbai on August 16. After the meeting, Fadnavis, the convenor of the committee, had said that it is looking at building consensus on the use of GM technology in enhancing production of edible oilseeds.

Among the oilseeds, mustard has been the focus of scientists for introducing GM because of its extensive use in the country. Just like cotton has bollworm as a pest, mustard also has a natural pest called diamond black moth, which cannot be controlled by any chemical pesticide. Therefore, the GM technology is being examined.

The BKS in a presentation to the Chief Minister said that agriculture scientists in the country have serious difference of opinion about the use of GM technology in enhancing the mustard production. Scientists, who have worked on the GM technology in mustard, have never claimed about higher productivity. Their research is only about the enhancement of existing breeding technology and introducing herbicide-tolerant gene in mustard. The Indian Council for Agriculture Research at its Bharatpur Mustard Research Centre has carried out research in these areas, but no claim has been made about higher productivity. Agriculture scientists have pointed that in mustard cultivation honey bees play a crucial role. In Herbicide-tolerant mustard seeds, herbicides are, however, sprayed extensively, leading to their decimation and affecting the mustard crop as well as other crops in the fields.

The note further said the country needs a long- term policy on oilseeds. Today, oilseeds are being sold at prices below the production cost, while palm oil is extensively imported.

Kulkarni added that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment needs to be further strengthened. BKS also believes that beyond GM technology, the new science of gene-editing needs to be studied further, its ethics require a close examination as gene-editing could lead to unknown mutations in biological beings.

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