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Voice of dissent rises as Mahyco looks to commercialise GM seeds Express News Service 
Nov 23 2008 
Ahmedabad: With the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) getting ready to commercialise genetically modified (GM) brinjal seeds — the first GM food crop in India — voices of dissent from NGOs and farmers have started reverberating in Gujarat.

Vadodara-based NGO Jatan, which was in the forefront of the anti-BT cotton movement, has threatened to launch a campaign I am no lab rat in Vadodara and Ahmedabad.

The campaign will move to different cities to highlight how human beings are subjected to mass experiment by way of GM food. These seeds have been genetically modified to include novel characteristics.

“Nowhere in the world GM brinjals are permitted for agricultural cultivation or human consumption. We are no guinea pigs. So, we should not be treated like one,” said Kapil Shah, director and managing trustee, Jatan.

The NGO will organise a roadshow, take part in some major exhibitions and distribute leaflets to campaign against the crop. The campaign is likely to begin next week. At the national level, a group called ‘Collation for GM-free India’ has been running a campaign against the GM food.

“The campaign I am no lab rat is targeted at Union Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss.

His party was the first one to register protest against the GM crops. If the minister cares so much about the health hazard of cigarettes, why is he mum on the GM food issue?” asked Kavita Kuruganti, member secretary, Coalition for GM Free India.

Considering the controversies surrounding the acceptance of GM foods and crops, and knowing the worldwide opposition to it, experts say the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) was expected to play a judicious role going beyond just commerce.

“No independent inquiry was conducted by the Government into the reports. The GEAC has only validated the reports submitted by the company, which wants to commercialise it,” added Kuruganti.

While the NGOs and the farmers are up in arms against the GM crops, Mahyco said that GM brinjal seeds would be a huge hit and it would make India an exporter of GM brinjals.

A senior company official, seeking anonymity, said “GM seeds” is a very sensitive issue.

Experts feel that agriculture being a state subject, it is the duty of the Central Government to take the states into confidence. However, the state agriculture minister doesn't have any information about it.

Gujarat Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani said, “I have not got any information from my department so far. I will discuss and let you know. I cannot take a stand without knowing what is it.”

Farmers, however, are more vocal on the issue. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh president, Magan Patel, said, “We have been opposing the GM seeds nationally. It is hazardous for health, and therefore, we support the campaign.”