Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has expressed serious concerns over the central government pushing for the commercial cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) mustard in India.
In a letter to Minister of Forests, Environment and Climate Change Dr Harshavardhan last month, the CM wrote about his concerns over GM mustard and its implications on the economy, nature and agriculture.
Disapproving the Centre's stand, Andhra has now joined states like Delhi, Bihar, Kerala and Tamil Nadu that have opposed the commercialisation of GM mustard, Live Mint reported.
Naiduâ€™s opposition gains significance because his party, Telugu Desam Party, is a key constituent in the NDA.
Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 or DMH-11 is a genetically modified variety of mustard developed by the Delhi University's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.
One of the allegations made by activists opposing GM mustard is that the developers of the crop intentionally concealed that the DMH-11 is an herbicide resistant variety till they were forced to reveal it under pressure and opposition.
In the letter dated August 10, a copy of which has been accessed by TNM, Naidu cited studies which state that the herbicide tolerant (HT) variety of crops could lead to birth-defects and even cause cancer.
"Scientists have expressed serious reservations about the introduction of HT crops in India, because of the evidence of the vast increase in concomitant herbicide use and the alarming increase in birth-defects and cancer in areas where HT GM Soya is widespread. There are studies linking even low doses of glufosinate herbicide with organ damage and cancer. The high level of toxic residues are known to impact pollinators like butterflies and bees," he wrote.
He mentioned other major concerns over GM crops, i.e. it could make fertile soil uncultivable, and that it could also result in unemployment of rural women engaged in de-weeding.
Citing a report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) -- a body formed by the Supreme Court to look into the GM mustard issue -- Naidu said that even the TEC found it unsuitable in the Indian context.
The CM stressed that the AP government has undertaken a large programme to develop natural farming and promote organic crops, and reminded that even the central government has a scheme to promote organic farming.
"The reality is that Genetically Modified crops and Organic Farming cannot be compatible with each other," he said.
Maintaining his reservations over the GM crops, he asked the Union Minister to not approve the commercialisation of GM mustard.
He also dismissed the central government's argument that state governments can decide whether or not to allow cultivation of GM mustard after the commercialisation plan gets an approval.
"Once commercialisation is allowed, it would be very difficult for state governments to regulate the use of the seeds," he said.