One clue is the choice of his successor, Anil Madhav Dave, the man behind the successful three-day Vichar Kumbh at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, earlier in May this year, where RSS and BJP stalwarts pledged to undo the evil effects of the chemical (green) revolution in agriculture and return to ecologically sustainable methods of farming.
The unstated but principal agenda of the meeting was implacable opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms (GM, GMO), a technology towards which Javadekar leaned favourably. GMOs are being stiffly opposed by the apex farmer body in the country, the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, the BJP Kisan Morcha, and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS think tank.
The anti-GM lobby has now received a fillip with Brussels (European Union) deciding not to extend the license for the herbicide Glyphosate, Monsanto’s top selling weed-killer, on grounds that it could cause cancer. The decision will impact Dow and Syngenta which have similar products on the market.
art Staes, representing the Green group in the European Parliament, insists glyphosate is a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor that has a “devastating impact on biodiversity.” Last year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) named glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Further, emerging research shows that Monsanto’s GMO corn and soy creates horrific physical ailments in animals. These include calves born too weak to walk, with enlarged joints and limb deformities. Piglets are known to experience such poor health that they start breaking down their own tissues and organs (self-cannibalizing) to survive. Many animals suffer from weak, brittle bones that easily fracture. Dairy cows develop mastitis, a painful udder infection. Beef cattle develop liver abscesses and an excruciating condition called “twisted gut.”
Some scientists, farmers and veterinarians feel that feeding animals with feed grown from genetically engineered crops drenched in glyphosate (key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp) is a form of animal abuse. Veterinarians and researchers have observed symptoms ranging from digestive disorders, damaged organs, infertility, weak immune systems, and chronic depression in the animals.
Iowa veterinarian Dr. Art Dunham believes that GMO crops are wreaking havoc with the health of animals and humans. Throughout his practice, he observes, he never came across a single case of manganese deficiency in the herds he treated. But around 2000, he found more and more calves born with skeletal deformities, a symptom of a manganese-deficient diet. Adding manganese to the calves’ diets improved their health and lab results on the dead calves’ livers confirmed little or no manganese.
Yet a diet of corn, soybean meal and hay should contain enough manganese for hogs, dairy and beef cattle. The mystery cleared when Dunham read a 2007 study by Dr. Huber who reported that spraying manganese on soybeans 10-14 days after the soybeans were treated with glyphosate could increase crop yields. Huber suggested that glyphosate caused some crops to become manganese-deficient because it bound nutrients in the soil and plants. Such crops could not metabolize the nutrients needed for proper plant function and became susceptible to disease. Possibly calves fed manganese-deficient crops sprayed in glyphosate showed manganese deficiency, including enlarged joints, deformed limbs and crippling weakness.
cross North America, Dunham noted that 5 to 10 days after normal, healthy piglets were weaned off their mother’s milk, they become gaunt, pale, anorexic (“post-weaning failure to thrive syndrome” or PFTS). The problem is diet-related as the disease manifests when the piglets begin eating food. The post-mortems showed lesions in the stomachs and intestines of the affected piglets.
Liver analyses of the hogs also showed “rock-bottom” levels of cobalt. Researchers at Texas A&M University note that glyphosate ties up cobalt at 102-103 times more than it ties up manganese. Activists allege that GM-linked agriculture treats animals and human beings as guinea pigs, despite overwhelming evidence that GM foods are serious risk factors for illness and disease.
In a positive development in the US, in June, a St. Louis Circuit Court jury awarded $46.5 million to three (out of 1,000) plaintiffs who alleged that food containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) made by Monsanto caused them cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma).
PCB are a highly toxic and carcinogenic group of chemicals once used in a range of products, from electrical equipment, surface coatings, inks, adhesives, flame-retardants, and paints. Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs from 1935 to 1997.
According to internal documents that surfaced, Monsanto knew for decades that PCBs put people’s health at risk, but lied that the compounds were safe and continued to sell them until the 1970’s. One document, dated Sept. 20, 1955, stated: “We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined.”
The US Environment Protection Agency banned PCBs in 1979 after it was linked to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can affect the skin and liver in humans and linger in the environment for decades. In 2013, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified PCBs as carcinogenic to humans.
India should not allow MNC-funded scientists to drown the voices of sanity. The white fly blight that hit Bt Cotton in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan earlier this year is a grim warning of agriculture lined to GM seeds. The new Minister of State for Environment & Forests should crack down on GM non-food crops and completely ban trials in GM food crops, without further ado.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
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.