Petition In Support of Indian Farmers' Right to Grow Biotech Crops and Scientific Field Testi

As scientists who are familiar with plant biotechnology and the positive impacts biotech crops have delivered over the past decade, we are disappointed and concerned to read about the recent interim moratorium on field testing of biotech crops in India.  We are equally concerned about the recent actions by activist groups who are advocating a complete ban of all field testing of biotech crops in India.
Honorable Mr Sharad Pawar
Minister of Agriculture
Krishi Bhavan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi - 110 001, India.
Email: am@krishi.delhi.nic.in

As scientists who are familiar with plant biotechnology and the positive impacts biotech crops have delivered over the past decade, we are disappointed and concerned to read about the recent interim moratorium on field testing of biotech crops in India.  We are equally concerned about the recent actions by activist groups who are advocating a complete ban of all field testing of biotech crops in India.

There are activists groups who are committed to opposing crop biotechnology and similar protests were demonstrated by them during its trial stage in 1998-2000 prior to the approval of Bt cotton in India. However, the regulatory authorities and judiciary set aside the protests and allowed the trials to be carried out. The authorities satisfied with the rigorous scientific studies conducted on Bt cotton granted commercial approval in 2002 and since then, Bt cotton in India has provided tremendous economic benefits and helped in bringing higher farm income to the Indian farmer.

Biotech crops were first commercialized in 1996, and since then they have been rapidly adopted by farmers around the world.  Scientists have confirmed that the current commercial biotech crops have delivered significant economic and environmental returns to farmers.  Higher yields, lower costs, reduced pesticide use and less tillage have been the benefits delivered by these first commercial biotech crops.

The next generation of biotech crops being developed includes crops with higher nutrition, lower fats and higher levels of heart healthy compounds.  There are also crops under development with higher tolerance to drought and cold that will provide tremendous benefits to the agricultural sector as well as society in general.

Biotech crops are rigorously tested by scientific and regulatory organizations before they are allowed to be planted commercially. All of the commercial biotech crops have been tested and shown to be as safe as conventional crops. Field testing is an important part of this safety assessment process. All field trials should be done in full compliance of the regulatory system and approval conditions. Without field testing, none of these new biotech crops will be available for planting by Indian farmers. A ban on field testing is a de facto ban on biotechnology. It is irresponsible for activist groups to misrepresent the demonstrated benefits and potential risks of biotech crops and restrict Indian farmers their rights to choose the most efficient and most sustainable crops on their farm.

We urge you to consider the demonstrated benefits of biotech crops that farmers have realized for over 10 years globally, including the benefits from Bt cotton in India.  We also urge you to consider the next generation of crops that will continue to help farmers increase the productivity and sustainability of their farming operations. It is imperative that a science based regulatory system continues to be implemented to ensure the safety of these new crops. Field testing is a critical component of a science based safety assessment program.

We urge you to reject these campaigns in the name of science and on behalf of Indian farmers, who will benefit from the continued introduction of new technologies to help make them more productive.  

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