Will all our crops be GM (Genetically Modified)?

A huge scandal – Babus and corrupt scientists ruling the roost

GM seeds in several food crops
GM seeds in several food crops

GM contamination is irreversible

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]eed multinationals are so confident that they can ‘manage’ the Indian political class that, for over a decade now, they have got ‘committed scientists’ in Indian public institutions to work on Genetically Modified seeds in several food crops, including those for which India is a centre of origin and hence, per international norms, should not be touched so as not to invade and infect the germplasm and biodiversity of the species.

GM seeds are being prepared by so-called indigenous research, in secret, and for crop after crop

These MNCs do not scruple about the stage by stage approvals and permissions. After all, Bt Cotton was pushed into the country long before Government was persuaded to give it de jure approval, and the failure of the crop has not embarrassed the companies which persist with their underhand ways.

After nationwide activism checkmated Bt Brinjal from ruining the diversity of brinjal varieties in India, they quickly produced the GM Mustard, ostensibly from a laboratory in Delhi University. However, all pertinent patents vest abroad and all companies that benefit from the sale of pesticides or herbicides are western multinationals.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ven as GM Mustard is hanging fire, owing to an ongoing petition in the Supreme Court of India and the unflinching opposition of environmentalists and activists, including the think tank, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a news leak informs us that some scientists have produced Transgenic Jowar (sorghum). GM news only emerges in bits and pieces, apparently to acclimatise citizens to the inevitability of multinationals controlling the national food chain, from seed to soil to crop and even sale – definitely the next frontier – far surpassing the ruthlessness of medieval and British era zamindars.

According to a news report, the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) has allegedly been working on GM Jowar and is all set to flood the country with transgenic millets with Bt genes with allegedly better grain size and resistance to pests. There is a real danger that they may have conducted secret field trials without the mandatory safety guidelines.

The news has come as a shock to environmentalists, farmers bodies, and health rights activists who immediately demanded that the Central Government stop the release of GM Jowar for human or animal consumption.

Clearly, a very devious and dangerous game is afoot. GM seeds are being prepared by so-called indigenous research, in secret, and for crop after crop, and the news released in convenient driblets. Clearly, someone or rather a set of persons has given the companies the assurance that whatever the delays, these seeds would eventually be approved and the way paved for endless profits and full dominance of Indian agriculture.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]s this confidence has survived the change of government in 2014, it stands to reason that only “dominant” (with the ability and connections to fix things) bureaucrats and scientists, even if retired, could have given this assurance to the western multinationals, and convinced them to stay put in India and invest money in Indian scientists and their “research”, covertly of course. This makes one wonder what the balance sheets of these companies look like; how do they disguise their actual expenditures?

In 2006, an agriculture university in West Bengal reported that GM Bhindi (okra) had been planted illegally

GM Jowar cuts deep into society. A hardy crop that grows in dry lands, Jowar is respected as a highly nutritious food and is credited with controlling high blood sugar levels. It is consumed by all population groups across the country; contamination of Jowar germplasm could have catastrophic health effects.

IIMR’s official site claims to have created stem borer-resistant transgenic sorghum plants through Bt technology, and to have developed “genetic transformation technology to suit the needs of Indian sorghum genotypes”.

Southern Action on Genetic Engineering (SAGE), a coalition of farmers, scientists, environmental activists and civil society groups from South India, has urged the Centre to reject GM sorghum. SAGE convener P.V. Satheesh has written to the new Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Dr Harshvardhan, about the threat posed to a crop that has given complete food and nutritional security to people in dry lands for centuries, besides rich fodder for cattle. In Mexico, the accidental introduction of GM maize killed the maize biodiversity of the country, and this should be a warning to India.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]Y[/dropcap]et this development is not new. In November 2014, India’s prestigious Basmati rice was found adulterated with cheap GM rice by the UK-based GM certification firm, Cert ID. Fortunately, there has been no GM Basmati so far. But the incident put Basmati in danger of being banned in the European Union and other GM-sensitive markets. The contamination happened despite India banning GM rice trials in three states of the Basmati rice export zone in 2007 after the EU and other countries rejected imports of rice contaminated with GM strains.

Instances keep coming to light of scientists aligned with GM seed companies facilitating field trials of several food crops illegally. In 2002, Tamil Nadu women farmers and the Coalition for a GM-Free India exposed a university in Coimbatore for experimenting with BT Corn. Greenpeace activists raided a village near Hyderabad and found a company engaging in field trials of GM Rice and forcing farmers to buy the herbicide Glufosinate that is banned in Europe for causing birth defects.

In 2006, an agriculture university in West Bengal reported that GM Bhindi (okra) had been planted illegally. The same year, poor farmers in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, were asked to plant “special seeds” of many vegetables, including green chilly.

In March 2011, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar accused a multinational seed corporation, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Union Environment Ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of conniving to conduct field trials of GM Maize in Bihar without clearance from the Ministry and without informing the State Government. He said ICAR’s experimental farms failed to keep the ‘isolation distance’ required to prevent the spread of contamination; Union Minister Jairam Ramesh directed the GEAC to immediately stop the trials.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]G[/dropcap]MO contamination is irreversible. The seeds of GM plants are engineered to be sterile and wind pollination can contaminate and wipe out other plant species. The small size of Indian farms makes them especially vulnerable to genetic contamination. Yet the multinational seed companies are setting their own agenda, thanks to powerful, invisible backers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must urgently investigate the extent of illegal experimentation in GM foods; the institutions, firms and officials involved; and the extent of inroads already made illegally into the food chain.

A special enquiry is needed in Bt Cotton areas, where cattle fed with cotton seed cake after oil extraction are reported to have suffered abortions, still births, and sharply reduced milk yields. It is understood that the extracted oil was blended with other edible oils and entered the human food chain illicitly. This poses a grave danger to public health and the truth needs to be established without delay.

1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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Sandhya Jain is a writer of political and contemporary affairs. A post graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi, she is a student of the myriad facets of Indian civilisation. Her published works include Adi Deo Arya Devata. A Panoramic View of Tribal-Hindu Cultural Interface, Rupa, 2004; and Evangelical Intrusions. Tripura: A Case Study, Rupa, 2009. She has contributed to other publications, including a chapter on Jain Dharma in “Why I am a Believer: Personal Reflections on Nine World Religions,” ed. Arvind Sharma, Penguin India, 2009.
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  1. We accepted iphone but we have reservations about indigenous GM technology! developed by Indian scientists?

    We are very comfortable with medical technologies, recombinant vaccines and many other medicines AND

    Fertilizers/ pesticides but very allergic to seeds .

    Talk of of a new seeds ” you are anti national ”

    Who is funding opponents of seeds of change?

    We have to educate them:

    Let the author understand that

    Who started Agri research in India:

    For our knowledge Phipps of USA selling his all property an scale to India urged Lord Curzon to provide land for his venture. That became PUSA.These politician brought PUSA in New Delhi and insulted on the right of technolgy to farmers of eastern India.Actually

    Howard from PUSA released 1st variety of wheat in 1904.

    Norman Borlaug gave all the seeds of Green Revolution

    There are many examples.

    We are happy with Howitzers, Raffale , Airbus, Boeing, Nissan, Renault, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Audi;McDonald, KFC, Chinese products, the list is endless.

    BUT poor farmer should use 16th century technology ONLY.

    These anti poor politicians have been shown the door by the Rural voters.Still they are creating trouble and stalling our right to technology.

  2. There are hundreds of drugs (medicines) developed, tested and approved by pharmaceutical companies in the world out side of India yet we use those drugs without questioning their safety. The GMO foods are thoroughly tested first in USA and found to be insect resistant, providing a lot more productivity per acre and other benefits. Presently more than 90 percent of acreage planted for corn in USA are GMO corn. The Americans have been eating directly or indirectly GMO foods for almost 25 years. During those years their life expectancy has not gone down (but has gone up). If anybody has any doubt, just Goggle “GMO foods and USA”. If for nothing else, just for the increased productivity per acre, we should adopt GMO foods. Or we should reject all drugs developed, tested and approved by Americans.

    • To cite just ONE example, the popular arthritis drug Vioxx was withdrawn by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. with a massive $950 million settlement with the US government and 43 states in 2004 after it was linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke among those who took it.
      Google is full of cases of drugs introduced in a hurry by Big Pharma and then quickly withdrawn when the side effects could not be concealed/suppressed.
      As for GMOs, soils are polluted forever and cannot sustain normal agriculture again. There are endless UN studies on its ill effects.

      • The examples of drugs recall you are citing, were found to be harmful by Americans and not by anybody else. Before they were found to be harmful, did we (Indians) opposed them? No. Then why we are questioning about the safety of GMO foods which Americans have been eating for more than 25 years? How many years of safe consumption would be satisfactory? Will we accept GMO foods if Israel accepts? Seems like in agriculture Israel is going to be our role model.

        • this is ridiculous.. just bcoz americans use it for 25 years, does that mean GMO foods are safe? dhimmitude at best.. there were so many reported incidents of health effects by GMO food.. just google it..

          If you want GMO foods, you buy it from america.. dont force / cheat the farmers of india to use it.. majority of indians dont need GMO foods.. they are happy with the traditional varieties..

  3. Clearly, someone or rather a set of persons has given the companies the assurance that whatever the delays, these seeds would eventually be approved and the way paved for endless profits and full dominance of Indian agriculture.


    Keenly & closely analyze Modi’s stand on ‘GMOs’, ‘Indian Agriculture’. Narendra Modi is neither bothered about the ‘farmers’ suicides’ nor perturbed by toxification of our FOOD CHAIN. He will deliver occasional speeches praising Sikkim & virtues of organic food while on the ground do nothing to make India truly ‘cow based organic’

    He has got an obliging set of Ministers who carry out his agenda of promoting & proliferating GMOs.

    Modi’s close association with the ‘traitor M.S. Swaminathan’ is proof enough of his clandestine support to GMOs & dubious love for organic farming.

    Even with a ‘weak & tottering’ support for his Government, Morarjibhai had the bravado to kick out MNCs who were (are) looting our nation & introduce COW PROTECTION bill. As against this, Modi has done nothing to eradicate the nuisance called SOFT DRINKS but is hobnobbing with the likes of Indira Nooyi.

    Despite several rhetoric during election campaigns against ‘cow slaughter’, he has done nothing on ground in that direction.

    Modi is just a saffron colored Nehru.

  4. You should fight these people on their playing field. Give a grant to someone to pump mice with these GM products VR noon-GM products. I guarantee there will be some sort of adverse events that you can easily argue against GM. Even if you can’t outright prove you can delay the GM Mafia’s with preservation from a study.
    Also who owns the patents on the crops? If it is not the government this should be exposed.

    • I am unable to understand your comment fully. Can you please elaborate the second sentence of your comment?

      Today U.S. is virtually under corporate control mainly consisting of Monsanto, Carrgill, Bayer, DOW, Syngenta. It is this cartel which shapes the policy decisions in the U.S. Imagine what a havoc this cartel will create in India with strong Govt under Modi supporting GMOs?

      • The biggest stick that the pro GM food people use is that there is no data to show that GM crops are bad. So I am suggesting that we put out research based on their scientific method showing GM foods are bad. Given the biases that are inherent in the methods pro-GM research is done to show that GM crops are safe, it would be east to take advantage of those biases to show GM crops are dangerous. I think a study at very low cost could be done to show the dangers of GM food.

        I was suggesting that a group or a private individual in India who is concerned about GM, foods research the issue with their own scientists. Or the common man pressures the government to give grants to research this. They could give out research grants to study the effects of GM foods on mice. It would not cost that much. For example you feed a group of mice a particular GM food grain. Then compare them to a group of mice that us eating the same food grain but the non-GM or organic version.

        You could study an easy parameter like blood glucose levels or mice weight.

        I say this because there is bound to be some measurable aspect of difference in the mice that eat GM foods that us adverse. Such as they are prone to obesity or higher glucose levels which could indicate increased risk for diabetes in humans who eat that same GM food.

        So a study like this would not be enough to make a conclusive justification that GM food is bad but it would raise the possibility that they are bad, and buy us more time to research them and justify keeping them out of the market.


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