[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has put its organisational weight behind the protection of native seeds and protested attempts by vested interests for hasty introduction of GM Mustard, which has the potential to damage in perpetuity the germplasm of all native varieties of mustard. As a centre of origin of mustard and other food crops like rice and brinjal, among others, the RSS argues that government must protect India from the assault of the transgenics industry. What is more, it points out that GM Mustard is a multinational corporation product being falsely peddled as home-grown, ‘swadeshi’.
In 2002, Bayer subsidiary, Proagro Seed Company, applied for commercial approval for a seed of similar construct that Prof Pental and his team are now promoting as (herbicide-tolerant Dhara Mustard Hybrid) HT Mustard DMH 11.
RSS think tank, Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) lambasts the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) decision to certify GM Mustard as safe for human consumption. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, 23 May 2017, SJM avers that claims that the ‘Swadeshi GM Mustard’ supposedly developed by Delhi University researcher, Prof Deepak Pental, would increase yield and reduce India’s edible oil import bill are based on manipulated data, false conclusions and lobbying by vested interests.
Nor has GM Mustard been developed in India. In 2002, Bayer subsidiary, Proagro Seed Company, applied for commercial approval for a seed of similar construct that Prof Pental and his team are now promoting as (herbicide-tolerant Dhara Mustard Hybrid) HT Mustard DMH 11.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]ayer’s application was rejected because the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) found no evidence of superior yield during field trials. Actually, the hybridisation of GM Mustard is achieved vide two genes, barnase and barstar, derived from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. The bar-barstar-barnase gene is a patented technology of Bayer Crop Science. As Bayer is a multinational corporation, a product patented by them cannot be designated as ‘swadeshi’. The fact that Bayer owns the patent of the genes used in Prof Pental’s Mustard is being deliberately concealed. Issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) would be raised later, once approvals are through.
…it is difficult to understand the current haste to promote Prof Pental’s GM Mustard when it is neither swadeshi, nor high yielding compared to Indigenous hybrids, nor good for our health, environment and biodiversity.
GM mustard cannot increase domestic production and reduce import dependence as it has no yield advantage compared to Indigenous hybrids. Data from Rapeseed Mustard Research (DRMR), Bharatpur, establish that Deepak Pental’s claim that his GM mustard would increase yield by 26 percent is deceptive and misleading as several existing hybrid varieties outperform the transgenic DMH-11. Moreover, Pental has concealed the existence of better performing non-GM hybrids from his own stable and falsified the data by comparing the yield performance of GM mustard with some very old varieties with lesser yield. Current non-GM varieties of mustard give at least 25 percent more yield than Pental’s GM mustard.
Shockingly, as GMO Mustard is actually based on Bayer’s patented Barnase-barstar-barnase gene system, the condition of payment of royalty has been kept secret. Further, it promotes use of the herbicide, Glufosinate, which will benefit Bayer most. Obviously, India is being duped to surrender its agricultural autonomy and biodiversity to MNCs.
The most irresponsible attitude of the pro-GM lobby can be seen in the avoidance of feeding tests that are imperative before GM mustard can be pronounced safe for human and animal health. It was on the basis of feeding tests on mice, beyond the Monsanto-determined 90 days, that scientist Eric Seralini was able to demonstrate the toxic effects of GM foods. Equally pertinently, GM crops and the herbicides they promote have been proven to be injurious to honey bees the world over. Honey bees are intrinsic to crop pollination and boosting of agricultural yields; honey is only a valuable by-product. This is why honey bee keepers are demonstrating against moves to introduce GM mustard.
GM mustard is engineered with a trait for resistance to BASTA, a Bayer herbicide with one ingredient called glufosinate plus other poisons as adjuvants and surfactants. Glufosinate is a neurotoxin. Despite this, there has been no study of Basta residues in mustard. If introduced, Bayer will sell Basta to farmers through the herbicide resistant traits. The game is to create a market for toxic chemicals, which in turn will spread diseases. Inevitably, use of Bayer herbicide will make land under GM mustard cultivation unfit for other crops. It was on viewing the far reaching adverse effects of glufosinate that the European Union placed several restrictions on its use.
It defies logic that a GM food crop is being considered for commercial production after the UPA government was forced to retreat on the issue of Bt. Brinjal.
Given these well-known facts, it is difficult to understand the current haste to promote Prof Pental’s GM Mustard when it is neither swadeshi, nor high yielding compared to Indigenous hybrids, nor good for our health, environment and biodiversity.
It defies logic that a GM food crop is being considered for commercial production after the UPA government was forced to retreat on the issue of Bt. Brinjal. The then Minister of Environment, Jairam Ramesh, allowed public hearings and scrutiny of claims by making the data public. This led to a moratorium on Bt. Brinjal, as the scientific community was able to prove that introduction of Bt. Brinjal would be injurious to human health, biodiversity and agriculture at large.
Finally, the matter is sub-judice as the Chief Justice of India, on an assurance from the Attorney General that the Union of India would not release DMH 11 “without the prior approval of the Supreme Court”, gave a verbal order of interim injunction till the case is heard comprehensively. The case is in progress.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.