La Via Campesina South Asia
Coalition For A GM Free India
(India, New Delhi, June 17, 2015): “Bt Brinal then, GM Mustard now – will GEAC repeat the mistake of thrusting Genetically Modified food onto our plates? We will strongly oppose any attempt to approve commercialization of GM mustard,” warned the Coalition for GM Free India. The Coalition while releasing a Briefing Paper on Delhi University’s GM mustard at a press conference in the capital reminded the GM regulator about the flood of concerns that rocked the entire country when Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop that was approved by the regulator and later had to be put under an indefinite moratorium by the government during 2009-10. GM mustard is the first genetically engineered food crop being considered for commercial approval by GEAC since the Bt Brinjal fiasco.
Speaking at the press conference, Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor of the Coalition said, “Delhi University’s GM mustard is essentially a backdoor entry for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops into India, in the guise of a public sector GM crop. An attempt was made for a very similar GM mustard by an MNC into India in 2002 which the regulators firmly rejected. Incidentally, rejection of herbicide tolerant crops is a recommendation made repeatedly by many Committees over the years, given the health, environmental and enormous socio-economic impact that this will leave on rural employment.” He further stated, “The GM mustard developers are hoodwinking the nation with claims on yield increase whereas there is no yield improvement compared with the same hybrid produced through non-GM process. The purported genetic modification for male sterility is only meant to ease the seed production by the seed sellers. This is nothing but a Trojan horse for many other HT GM crops lined up by MNCs like Monsanto which are in the regulatory pipeline”
The GM mustard in question named DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi with support from DBT (Dept of Biotechnology) and NDDB (National Dairy Development Board). It has reportedly completed biosafety assessments and could be brought up in the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for any environmental releases of GMOs in the country, for commercialization approval. DMH 11 hybrid mustard has been created by genetically engineering bacterial genes into selected mustard parental lines to create male sterile parent plants. This is used for the production of hybrids seeds which are then sold to the farmers for cultivation. Along with these genes for hybrid production is also another bacterial gene for herbicide tolerance in the guise of a marker gene.
“At a time when the entire nation is concerned with laxity in food safety regulation as seen in the Maggi case, it is outrageous that GM food crops are being pushed without adequate safety assessment and transparency,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). “The entire biosafety assessment of this GM mustard is shrouded in secrecy with repeated efforts including RTI requests to seek information on the statutory safety assessments having remained unanswered from GEAC, starting from 2006. In the latest RTI effort we made, biosafety information was denied on the grounds that ‘it was under process’. This, when all the biosafety reports, the biology of the crop and other literature are supposed to be made available in the public domain, as per the Supreme Court Orders in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on GM technology (WP 260/2005),” she added.
This GM mustard comes up for consideration for commercialization approval when there is an increasing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops and herbicides including a recent study by WHO pointing to the carcinogenic potential of herbicides like glyphosate . Contamination is inevitable from this GM mustard and even the developer of the GM mustard Dr Deepak Pental had accepted that. This is a matter of grave concern since India is a Centre of Diversity for mustard.
Sharing that violation of biosafety norms has become a routine matter in India including in the case of this GM mustard, Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “In the recent BRL II trial of this GM mustard in Bathinda, biosafety conditions laid down by the regulators while permitting the field trial have been found to be violated and photographic evidence of the same has been sent to the GEAC for action . We demand that the GEAC investigate this immediately and fix liability for such violations”.
Notes to the Editor:
(1) Evaluation of five herbicides by International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO): http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf
(2) Coalition letter to GEAC on violations at the GM mustard field trial site is available a
\Delhi University Study: https://www.scribd.com/doc/270088343/Du-Gm-Mustard-Briefing-Paper-coalition-final-jun17-2015
For more information, contact:
Rajesh Krishnan: Coalition for a GM Free India, 098-456-50032, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kavitha Kuruganti: ASHA, 093-930-01550, email@example.com