The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) have appealed to the Government not to give nod to Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard and said the public authority ought to initially take a choice only after holding parleys with stakeholders and experts. Recently, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee gave nod to GM Mustard for cultivation in farmers’ fields in the country. In a letter to Shri Bhupender Yadav, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, the Manch has sought the minister’s intervention to “ensure that no GM mustard seed is allowed to be planted, now or ever”. According to the missive, the Manch has been opposing “this dangerous and unneeded GM mustard being brought in through the backdoor as a ‘public sector’ GMO”. Coming down heavily on the regulatory body, the Manch stated that the regulatory body, did not take up any review of the crop. “The regulators are joining hands with GM crop developers and are time and again compromising the regulatory regime quite seriously, and they have done so with this GM mustard also.” The two bodies dismissed the claim that “GM Mustard is Swadeshi and has been developed in India”. “We would like to bring it to your kind notice that in 2002, Proagro Seed Company (Bayer’s subsidiary), applied for commercial approval for similar construct that Prof Pental and his team are now promoting as HT Mustard DMH 11. Bayer’s application at that point of time was turned down because (ICAR) said that their field trials did not give evidence of superior yield. As is well known, the hybridisation of GM Mustard is achieved by means of the two genes barnase and barstar, derived from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. Bayer is not a Swadeshi company. How can a product patented in their name is termedas Swadeshi?”
According to the Manch, Bayer owns the patent of the genes used in Prof Pental’s Mustard has been deliberately concealed from the people of India. Dismissing another claim that GM Mustard will increase domestic production and reduce our import dependence, the Manch said the GMO mustard has no yield advantage compared to Indigenous hybrids.
In a scathing attack, the Manch stated that the regulators had kept the condition of royalty payment by the developer to Bayer has been kept a secret. “Not only that GMO Mustard is based on Bayer’s patented Barnase-barstar-barnase gene system for which royalty shall be paid, it is said to promote usage of Glufosinate, an herbicide from which Bayer will benefit the most through its existing brands. Therefore, it is evident beyond doubt that the nation would be seriously dependent upon MNC for usage of patents and import of herbicides causing greater outflow of valuable Foreign exchange from the country.” It needs to be remembered that GM Mustard has never been tested as a herbicide tolerant crop at all, while even the development of this glufosinate-tolerant crop was in violation of India’s pesticides regulations. The yield data was rigged and evidence about this has been shared with the regulators by alert citizens and experts. Importantly, major mustard-growing states of India were opposed to GM crops in general, and this particular GM mustard and had not even allowed for field trials to take place.