Claims on Bt cotton need to be probed, says panel

By TheHindu on 26 Aug 2017

Reigniting the debate on GM crops, a Parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury in a report released on Friday said the government agencies have portrayed “a rosy picture” on Bt Cotton which is far removed from the truth.

The report of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology claimed that the government cited only overall cotton output and not the average yield in area. “India’s cotton yields increased by 69% in the five years (2000-2005) when Bt Cotton was less than 6% of total cotton area, but by only 10% in the 10 years from 2005-2015 when Bt Cotton grew to 94% of the total cotton area,” the report noted.

The “duality of the claims about the increase in yield of cotton” needs further examination, the committee said.

It slammed the government for its “casual” approach to the need for a scientific study of GM crop impact on health.

“Can you imagine they did not think it fit to carry out any study on impact of GM crops on human or animal health. All the studies that the government have been quoting are done in other countries growing GM crops,” Standing Committee Chairperson Renuka Chowdhury said.

The committee noted that 20 years after introduction of GM crops in 1996, only six countries continue to account for over 90 % of all GM crop area globally including U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada, China and India. “If GM technology was so good then why would all the countries not embrace it?” Ms. Chowdhury asked.

The Ministry of Agriculture conceded to the committee that herbicide-tolerant gene may escape through pollen into nearby farm and fields, to another GM or non-GM crop. “So if we allow GM crops in the midst of our indigenous crops there is no way contamination can be stopped, which means that we could lose the competitive edge of some of our unique products,” Ms. Chowdhury added.

Finally, unless bio-safety and socio-economic desirability studies are done through a participatory, independent and transparent process, the committee has recommended that no GM crop should be introduced.