Kerala opposes GM rubber

Asks Centre to revoke permission for GM trials

By Jyotika Sood
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

rubberKERALA has challenged the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee’s (GEAC) decision to allow open field trials of genetically modified (GM) rubber in the state. GEAC, the country’s apex body that approves release of GM crops, had given a go-ahead to the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) to carry out the trials in Chetchackal, Thombikandom in Kottayam.

“The Supreme Court had directed GEAC to seek permission from the state government, the local government and farmers before permitting any GM trials,” said Kerala agriculture minister Mullakkara Retnakaran. But the directions were ignored by GEAC while giving approval in a meeting held on November 15.

In his letter dated December 2, the agriculture minister asked Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh to revoke the approval and not allow any field trials without prior permission of the state. “We have already stated to the Central government that Kerala wishes to remain a state free of GM crops. This is not only to protect its agriculture, but also its agro-biodiversity and the highly pristine and valuable biodiversity,” the minister write.

According to RRII, GM rubber plant has certain genes about which even scientists are apprehensive. Some of these genes are the MnSOD gene construct, which has CaMV 35 S promoter (from virus) and NPT II Kanamycin resistance and GUS reporter genes from E Coli.

“Rubber seeds are used in the production of cattle feed. Rubber treebased honey is also consumed on a large scale in Kerela. Therefore more clarity and scrutiny is needed before proceeding with the project,” Retnakaran told Down To Earth. In 2007, Andhra Pradesh had reported cattle deaths after grazing on Bt Cotton farms.

“We are not against biotechnology or research in genetics, but we will not permit open field trials of GM crops until all biosafety concerns in this respect are addressed both at social and scientific levels. In case of endosulfan, Kerala has already paid a social price and does not want any other catastrophe to happen,” he added.

Shalini Bhutani, a legal expert working with international non-profit GRAIN, said the eleventh schedule gives the government the right to decide what to grow. Besides, Kerala is amongst the few states which has set up biodiversity management committees under the Biological Diversity Act, 2001. These committees facilitate local-level decision making on use of biological resources in their area and can play a crucial role on defending the state government’s stand.

But, the Indian Rubber Growers Association (IRGA) has supported the GEAC approval for GM rubber. At a time of rubber shortage, there is no option but to go for such experiments, an IRGA member said. Technological upgrade and keeping pace with the changing times are absolutely essential when the country targets to meet the demand of 1.5 million tonnes of natural rubber per year, he added.

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  • We need to do a thorough

    We need to do a thorough research on GM rubber and dont just blintly oppose it .

    Posted by: Anonymous | 10 years ago | Reply
  • The kerela government has

    The kerela government has done a stupendous and wonderful job by taking a decision to keep itself GM free. If such decisions come from all the state governments, I'm sure that central government would have no choice but to keep the country GM-free.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 10 years ago | Reply
  • We should try and keep Kerala

    We should try and keep Kerala GM-free. This pushing through of proposals by by-passing procedures by vested interests is a highly revolting situation. These vested interests should realize that their own kids will also be affected in the long run though they seem to be gaining a lot in a short term. We should learn from the hard lessons learnt by other states in India and that the only people who finally benefit from these seem to be huge corporations who are ultimately managed by external governments and/or organizations.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 10 years ago | Reply
  • we need more natural rubber

    we need more natural rubber is no excuse for promoting gm rubber. It is like advising steroids to athletes for better performance. No responsible scientist will encourage a technology that with such haste. Blind acceptance is far more dangerous than blind opposition.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 10 years ago | Reply
  • Dear readers, Thank you so

    Dear readers,

    Thank you so much for your response and supporting the Kerala government in its initiative to keep itself GM-free.

    Though the Kerala government is admant that it won't allow GM trials, I wish to tell you that the Ministry of enviornment has refused to revoke the permission. The Minister for environment Jairam Ramesh has told that the GM rubber trials in Kerala would go ahead for 14 years.

    I wish to make a point here, that despite the fact that agriculture is a state subject, the Central government has always enjoyed a monopoly in decisions regarding agriculture. Even GM rubber trials is a classic example of it.

    Now the ball is in Kerala government's court and let's see how the government comes to defend its state's rich biodiversity that would be contaminated by GM trials.

    And dear Mr Denu, I agree that a research is required, but would you support it at the cost of environment and human life.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 10 years ago | Reply