Many activists contend that GM crops are dangerous for human health and in some cases even fatal. (Representative Image)
New Delhi: There is no scientific evidence to prove that genetically modified crops are unsafe, the Union Environment Ministry told the Lok Sabha Friday, drawing sharp criticism from farm activists in the country.
Many activists contend that GM crops are dangerous for human health and in some cases even fatal.
Several complaints have been sent to the environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) regarding illegal growing of Bt Brinjal, GM mustard and other genetically modified crops, the ministry said in Parliament on Friday.
According to the complaints received, such cultivations are happening in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Punjab, it said.
Minister of State for Environment Babul Supriyo told the lower house that under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, all states and Union Territories (UTs) have been directed to constitute and strengthen their Biotechnology Coordination Committees and district-level panels for monitoring instances of illegal cultivation of GM crops and taking appropriate action.
"There is no scientific evidence to prove that GM crops are unsafe. GM foods are regulated under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which consolidates laws for manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption," he said.
"So far, no Living Modified Organisms relating to food has been approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change," the minister of state said in response to a question whether any action has been taken on the complaints.
Expressing shock at the government's response on the safety of GM crops, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said there are hundreds of studies and reports which show the ill-effects of GM crops.
"There are hundreds of studies in the USA and Brazil which show ill-effects of GM crop on human health. Even in
India, an independent analysis has shown that Bt brinjal and GM mustard are not safe. The government is wrong to make such a statement," Kavitha said.
She also said the coordination committees and district-level panel have already been formed under the Environment (Protection) Act but "they were not doing their work properly".
Expressing a similar view, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Yudhvir Singh said genetically modified crops, especially GM mustard and Bt brinjal were quite harmful yet they are being grown illegally.
"GM mustard has cancer-causing chemical while Bt brinjal too has a poison which can have ill-effect on human beings if consumed. There are thousands of studies to show that GM crop is not safe to consume. It is killing not just pests but humans also," he said.
The BKU leader also said GM mustard is killing honeybees which forage on mustard crop.
"Honeybees are getting killed by foraging on GM mustard crop. If they die, it will affect cross-pollination which is an essential part of farming," Yudhvir Singh said.
Recently, farm activists upped the ante against illegal GM crop cultivation in the country and threatened to hold a nationwide agitation if the government failed to take stringent action to curb the illegal cultivation.
Kavitha, who was part of a recent press conference cautioning the government on the issue, however, said the GEAC has not responded to the complaints but told the activists that an appropriate action would be taken.