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Do not hype up GM crops, say NGOs

By Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI, MARCH 3. On the eve of a crucial meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to review the permission granted to Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech's Bt cotton varieties, several NGOs have opposed renewal of permission. According to them, this variety had failed "almost everywhere.''They have warned the Government against hyping up genetically modified (GM) crops, which will have a long-term impact on biodiversity and food security.

Independent activists had challenged the lack of bio-safety measures during Monsanto-Mahyco field trials at 40 sites in six States. Suman Sahai, president of Gene Campaign, which has conducted studies for three years on the Bt cotton performance in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, said there was "no justification'' for renewal of the conditional approval given three years ago. Its study shows that farmers had suffered losses with this cotton and that other local varieties have performed better in all the States. "Ecological security and bio-safety can be ensured by prohibition of untested GM crops from entry into the Indian farms and markets since these propriety GM seeds are undermining bio-safety and ecological security,'' said Vandana Shiva of Navdanya.

According to Devendra Sharma, a food policy analyst, the GEAC had not responded to requests by the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security and others (including the Gene Campaign, Greenpeace, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Bharat Krishak Samaj and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad) for being given an opportunity to explain their position on Bt cotton.

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