New Delhi, May 2nd2018: Continuing the complaint-forwarding chain, Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has asked Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare to take actions on the illegal Genetically Modified (GM) seed import taking place in India. Ironically, while MoEF&CC’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) itself had forwarded the complaint on illegal GM seed import to Ministry of Commerce & Industry to take action, the DGFT chose to pass the buck back to MoEF&CC and to the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance and the Plant Quarantine Division and Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare in the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.
Interestingly, Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s data shows that India has been importing seeds from countries for crops which are overwhelmingly genetically modified in these countries. Over the last decade, India imported maize seed totalling more than 528 tonnes from Argentina and more than 20 tonnes from USA. Of the overall maize cultivated in both these countries, more than 90% maize is genetically modified. India also imports maize seeds from other GM maize producing countries such as Spain, Brazil and Philippines.
Similarly, India has imported more than 129 tonnes of sugar beet seed for sowing from US over the last decade. Of the overall sugar beet cultivated in the USA, more than 90% sugar beet is genetically modified.
India has also imported huge quantities of soybean seeds from US and Ukraine too. Whilst more than 90% of soybean cultivated in US is genetically modified, Ukraine has had its soybean exports rejected a few years ago for being genetically modified. It is quite possible that the illegal genetically modified soybean found to be grown in Gujarat in 2017 could have been from imported GM seeds too.
Industry data also shows that India has been importing squash and papaya seeds from US and China respectively both of which are known to cultivate genetically modified varieties for these crops too.
Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-free India who filed the complaints said, “This is a continuation of how GM crops have over the last 2 decades been introduced illegally in India whether it is Bt cotton, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton or GM soybean. It has been now 3 months since the illegal GM seed imports complaint was reported to the government, and we still have no concrete action of plugging this regulatory gap, and no liability fixed anywhere. It is just regulators asking each other to take action without looking at what they should be doing, and are not doing. This is completely unacceptable”.