Frustrated by delayed GMO approvals, Indian farmers press forward with illegal insect-resistant eggplant cultivation

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Credit: MarkLynas.org

The second decade of the 21st century, 2011 to 2020, has turned out to be the lost decade for India, as far as agriculture biotechnology is concerned. The [Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee] GEAC has held only 35 meetings in 10 years, and even recommended trials were not held. This contrasts sharply with the previous decade, when the GEAC held almost 81 meetings, and over a dozen GM crops were in various stages of development.

In April 2019, reports of unauthorized Bt Brinjal cultivation in Haryana surfaced. Samples tested by government agencies suggested evidence of genetic modification, but did not specify the particular gene involved.

This chronology of Bt Brinjal’s development in India suggests that policymakers have merely used the regulatory mechanism to avoid taking a clear decision, focusing on hypothetical risks rather than real ones.

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Increasingly, it is the farmers, who bear the daily risks of agriculture, who are now speaking up in support of technologies that could reduce their risks and improve their well being. It is the farmers who are defying the legal diktat. By taking the risk of sowing unapproved GM crops without any assurance of quality, they are engaging in the largest field trial ever possible. These brave farmers are demonstrating their capacity to take on the risk society is imposing on them by denying them access to new technologies ….

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