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Glyphosate based herbicides cause’s birth defects and cancer: Greenpeace Science report

Promotion of Herbicide tolerant GM crops can lead to increased use of these herbicides in India.

New Delhi: A new report launched by Greenpeace, a global environmental organization, states that use of glyphosate based herbicides can pose risk to human health as well as environment.

Introduction of herbicide tolerant GM crops which are under field trial stage in India can lead to widespread and intensive usage of these herbicides. The report was launched by Sri. Basudeb Acharia, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing committee on Agriculture, here yesterday.

The report, ‘Herbicide Tolerance and GM crops-Why the world should be ready to round-up Glyphosate’, is a compilation of literature from across the globe on the impacts of Glyphosate. It states that scientific studies show that Glyphosate can cause serious health effects like human birth defects, abnormalities in vital reproductive hormones as well as blood cancer. There is a marked increase in use of this herbicide due to increased use of herbicide tolerant GM crops which is primarily manufactured and marketed by Monsanto.

The report also talks about the environmental impacts of glyphosate on aquatic life forms, soil invertebrates like the earth worms and higher life forms.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides sold throughout the world. Glyphosate-based herbicides are used widely for weed control because they are non-selective; glyphosate kills all vegetation. Monsanto has also come up with herbicide tolerant GM crops in soya bean, maize and cotton which form the majority of the GM crops grown in USA, Brazil and Argentina, the only 3 countries in the world where GM crops are grown extensively. The company is now trying to introduce herbicide tolerant GM maize in India. Presently GM maize field trials are allowed in 11 locations across 8 states in the country.

According to Kapil Mishra, sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace India, “While the government of India has permitted large-scale field trials of Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant maize crops across India, it’ is important to know the ill effects that these crops and the associated chemical pose to human health and the environment.”

He added, “It is shocking that open field trials of such risky crops are being permitted without any safety study being conducted independently.”

He also opined that government should take note of the two pronged strategy by Monsanto to double its profit through sale of seeds and their own herbicides risking ecological and human safety.

In the past a taskforce set up by the government and headed by Dr Swaminathan had categorically stated that India should not permit herbicide tolerant GM crops as they would lead to loss of employment in the agriculture sector especially for women whose survival depends on manual weeding.  The report also has recommended the government to avoid GM crops where ever viable alternatives exist.

Basudeb Acharia, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing committee on agriculture, emphasizing on the importance of sustainable farming to ensure food security and livelihood security said, “There is a serious concern on the socioeconomic impacts of GM crops. One cannot label destructive farming as progressive science and force it down the throat of millions.”

He further stated that “On the one hand we have seen how these GM crops are leading to monopoly of the companies like Monsanto in the seed sector on the other hand such technologies like herbicide tolerant GM crops will destroy the rural livelihoods dependent on agriculture”

The report has been launched in the first week of the parliamentary monsoon session in a bid draw attention to the proposed BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) bill which will be introduced in this session. The bill has not been put in the public domain and once enacted is expected to allow easy approval of GM crops such as Bt brinjal as well as herbicide tolerant GM maize.

The speakers demanded that in the wake of more and more evidences coming out against GM crops, Government of India should immediately stop any kind of release of GM crops, be it for commercialization or field experimentation. They also urged the government to do public consultations on BRAI before it is tabled in the parliament as it is going to have a serious impact on food and farming in the country.

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