RSS pitches in against GM Mustard

Has the Government of India looked at all the aspects of introducing GM Mustard?

Has the Government of India looked at all the aspects of introducing GM Mustard?
Bayer's GM Mustard - is it worth it? Graphic courtesy Marsha Fencwick Nutrition

[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.

Note:
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.

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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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15 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to Sandhya for this trenchant comment. The matter that faces us in Bharat is as much about the so-called technology of genetic engineering as it is about the control of the food that we eat, and the methods used to cultivate the crops that our food is derived from.
    Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, BASF are not only the agro-chemical companies which have direct and indirect representation in our country, they have also helped foster the retail foods industry in Bharat, because the intent of these MNCs is not only the monocrop in the field, but the monocrop mindset that is the raw material for retail food.
    Our agricultural biodiversity has never been under greater threat, and this is the time all those who value the purity of the food they consume must reject in their homes GM food, but also must insist to their elected representatives that GM crop and seed be banned from our towns, panchayats and tehsils.

    • For this we need more aggressively committed farmers. Someone just told me that in Haryana, the cattle were fed Bt Cotton oil seed cake and suffered abortions, still births, reduced milk yield and dwarfing of cattle.
      I said I was astonished that such a thing happened in such close proximity to Delhi and the farmers remained somnolent. It should have made headlines.
      Even worse, what was the National Dairy Research Institute at Karnal doing? Above all, what were the politicians, environmentalists, activists doing?

      • Someone told you! Great are u suggesting something sinister? You sound like u want to get some attention.

  2. Genetically modified crops are a controversial subject.Are they good for humans to consume?what happens to farmers who have traditionally used a part of their produce as seeds?But then what is pushing this dialogue is that is it correct to handcuff a country with a bunch of multinationals? What skews the discussion is those in power suddenly realise that it is better to be on the side of science so that they look good and progressive.our 56″ fake is no different.His little education is telling him that it is better off on the side of GM like he has done in electronic money..

  3. I respectfully disagree with Naga Iyer,and his accusation Of Sri Narendrabhai is baseless. The fact is that Deepak Pental is obviously on the payroll of Monsanto,or Bayer or pro agro seed co with a promise of comfort and luxury once the he succeeds in blinding the govt. There can be no organisation as dedicated as RSS when it comes to National Service,and sacrifice.It is time we turned inwards in many Places and i do hope and pray that better sense prevails.

  4. GM foods have become unnecessary villain. People have been eating ‘Seedless Grapes’, ‘Seedless Watermelons’ for a long time now. Only when they came out their name was not given as GM foods. In the western world, people have been eating GM foods for more than 25 years directly or indirectly. GM corn are sold in open market and are fed to animals. Sooner or later people will have to choose between GM food or pesticides, herbicides, insecticides laden natural foods.

    • Little knowledge is dangerous,, in many western countries, you have to label clearly genetically modified produce..Why? because there are plenty of people opposing it.

  5. What happened to the age old tradition of seeds for next year’s sowing being safeguarded and preserved by our farmer women ?

    • It is precisely that age old tradition which is under attack. In tiny Haiti, the farmers understood that. And after the devastating earthquake, they collected all Monsanto seeds foisted on them by Clinton Foundation and set them on FIRE. They are the true upholders of Heirloom Seeds – the seeds coming down to us from our ancestors.

      Our farmers have to fight at this level and not be duped by promises of more money and higher yields, even after experiencing their own indebtedness and destruction

  6. By cotton during NDA1 n now GM Mustard.this shows the hypocracy of BJP ,the psuedo crusaders of swadeshi.for them money is everything.

  7. Well, it’s perfectly legitimate that RSS should raise its objections, But, frankly, I’m not so sure about the RSS’s scientific-cum-intellectual abilities in the modern world. Remember, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch was against computerisation, and produced some statistical investigation surveys to ‘prove’ its point that computerisation would cut a humongous number of jobs in our country. What happened in real life? India has become a major IT country with hundreds and hundreds of jobs created for those who specialised in computerisation, and huge earnings of foreign exchange from the export of IT companies’ services. Why, Mr Modi’s entire digitalisation progrmme is based on the use of computers. Why did the RSS never accept that it was wrong, terribly wrong in the matter? Instead, we have supporters of “old is gold” conservatives are abusing Mr Modi, not hesitating to call him corrupt and part of a “mafia”. Tragic indeed. Let’s hope that the by objecting to GM mustard, the RSS is not leading the country once again up the garden path.

  8. There are several reasons for me to suspect Modi is not acting in national interests in Agriculture in general & GMOs in particular:

    1. I have seen a YouTube clipping of Modi supporting GMOs for greater productivity

    2. News reports of Prakash Javadekar & Radhe Mohan Singh rejecting the harmful effects of GM crops even while Field Trials were in progress for GM Mustard

    3. Modi’s paradoxical actions of praising the Sikkim state for having become 100% organic while simultaneously promoting the so called ‘neem coated urea’

    If only India returns to her Vedic (desi) cow based zero budget natural farming by abandoning the harmful agro chemicals & GMOs, i can challenge anybody, India alone can grow adequate food to feed three times the globe.

  9. The biggest fraud perpetrated on the Indians after the ‘East India Company’ is ‘Green Revolution’

    After the end of World War II, dangerous & poisonous ‘war chemicals’ were branded as ‘fertilizers’ & ‘pesticides’ by the greedy West abetted by the corrupt Nehru Dynasty & sold to Indian farmers with the dream of exponential growth in productivity

    6 decades of the use of poisonous agro chemicals resulted in converting our once-fertile lands into barren lands with productivity reaching rock bottom pushing millions of farmers to suicides.

    Not content with mass loot, the greedy West & their corporates have come out with GM crops which totally devastate our tottering agriculture.

    Luckily We have a Government backed by RSS which believes in traditional methods. This Govt should revive the age old VEDIC FARMING based on COW which is a ZERO BUDGET FARMING

  10. Narendra Modi himself is an agent of Monsanto & several other MNCs. Many of his cabinet colleagues openly canvass for GM products. It appears Modi will not only prove to be more corrupt than the UPA MAFIA but more detrimental to the Indian Agriculture & farmers than the evil trio – Manmohan-Pawar-Chidambaram.

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