Tag Archives: GM mustard

Protect and develop India’s traditional knowledge, genetic resources, seeds and medicines

As the latest news of the applications to plant GM mustard in India is published, Winin Pereira’s writings were scanned for his views on the subject of genetically modified crops. Far more attention was given to genetic screening of embryos and research into genetic manipulation of human beings.

As an ethically motivated scientist, he would certainly have denounced this money/profit-centred exhortation – tempered by a sop to bee lovers – issued by Bhagirath Choudhary, Founder Director at South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), New Delhi Area, India. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/allow-high-yielding-gm-mustard-now-bhagirath-choudhary?trk=mp-reader-card 

The following extracts from his writings have an indirect bearing on the subject.

  • The traditional agricultural systems, not dependent on these factors, survived for millennia till they were displaced by this transitory “modernisation”. A change in the climate and the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer could cause major reductions in food production, since the extremely narrow genetic base from which high-yielding varieties are derived could result in widespread crop losses.
  • The high susceptibility of the new varieties to pest attacks is another factor contributing to insecurity. At the same time, the creativity which produced the tens of thousands of different traditional crop varieties adapted to numerous ecological niches is being destroyed by TNC producers of special seeds.
  • While the West claims that the available land and other resources will be inadequate to provide food for rising populations, it encourages the use of food in a most inefficient manner: many grains directly edible by humans are now being redirected to cattle, pigs and poultry to obtain expensive milk, meat and eggs.
  • India at present grows sufficient food to provide all its people with adequate basic nourishment, yet about one third of the population living below the poverty line do not get sufficient to eat.
  • The godowns are overflowing, but the people cannot afford to buy the stored food. The grain merely goes to maintain a population of rats and other pests, including the population of synthetic pesticide manufacturers.

Correct and full information, for instance, about food products, their real nutritional value in relation to their cost, the nature of the additives used, genetic modifications, if any), about pesticides (their health and environmental effects), about medicines (side-effects, alternatives) and so on, has to be wrung out of the system, instead of being given as a matter of right. But if people were fully informed, the sales of most such products would certainly drop drastically.

The ancestral rights of the indigenous peoples to control over their lands and other resources are being viciously destroyed for Western hamburgers, toilet paper and paperbacks. The exercise of such rights often involves the commercialising of these activities and the co-option of indigenous peoples into the mainstream.

The Western predators need to be reminded about the rights of the indigenes. They have the right to special measures to control, develop and protect their sciences, technologies and cultural manifestations, including human and other genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs and visual and performing arts.

Next: relevant to the fourth bullet point, a summary of ‘A Risky Solution for the Wrong Problem: Why GMOs won’t Feed the Hungry of the World’ – William G. Moseley,  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gere.12259/full: Copyright © 2017 by the American Geographical Society of New York. First published: 3 July 2017Full publication historyDOI: 10.1111/gere.12259  View/save citation


Anil Dave would have steered country’s environment to a safer haven

When Devinder Sharma saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter expressing his sincere condolences on the sudden passing of Environment Minister Anil Dave, he records that it took a few minutes for the tragic news to sink in.

He writes about their interaction on personal and issue-based matters and continues, “When I learnt that he had actually suffered a heart stroke, I couldn’t believe my ears. After all, he was my “junior” and going by the bypass medical history, he should have under normal circumstances lived for another 15 years or so or perhaps longer”. . .

Sharma recalls: “I met him first time when he was planning to launch the annual “Narmada Samagra” drawing environmentalists, politicians, policy makers, NGOs, and concerned citizens to save the mighty Narmada River. I was in fact introduced to him one fine day by my friends. We sat down for lunch and he shared with me what he proposed to achieve from “Narmada Samagra”.

He even told me: “You may think it is a government show but all I can tell you there are good people in the government who too want to protect the rivers,” I still recall his words, and could see through the deep commitment . . . ”On a number of occasions I found he would often speak with a lot of respect for some of the well-known environmentalists. “Sad, in this race to attain a higher GDP, we are mercilessly killing the environment, cutting down the trees, polluting the rivers ….”

I specifically recall when once I gave him a call, and told him I was in the city. At his insistence, I drove to ‘Nadi Ka Ghar’ where he greeted me and then we got into discussing a wide array of subjects – from rivers, to deforestation and to non-chemical agriculture. “I am telling the Chief Minister to ban chemical farming around Narmada. All these chemicals – fertiliser and pesticides — eventually flow into the river,” he told me. He wanted a massive plantation drive along the river banks, and I am glad Madhya Pradesh has undertaken that exercise.

Dr Deepak Pental (second from left) with fellow scientists at a GM mustard trial field in Jaunti village of North West Delhi.

Sharma records that Dave had been under severe political pressure to approve genetically modified mustard and had told him that given a choice he would never approve GM Mustard, adding, “I suggested to him to resign rather that give in to pressures”. He continued:

“For a man who in his heart only revered nature, it wasn’t easy to take a call on GM Mustard. As Tarun Vijay wrote: “He was to take a final decision on an application for an indigenously-developed GM crop of mustard. Everyone who knew him was sure that he would ban it in India.”  On that fateful day, after witnessing a civil society protest outside his office during the day, and later inviting a six-member team for discussions in his office, he met the Prime Minister at his residence late in the evening. As the Prime Minister had tweeted, acknowledging he had long discussions around policy issues with Anil Dave the fateful night, it is quite obvious that the contentious issue of GM Mustard approval too must have been discussed.

“A few hours later he complained of pain in the chest and was rushed to the hospital”.

Read the whole article here: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/

Will government press ahead with GM mustard?

Many people in India and other countries are keenly watching this process and the following three links have been received from a reader.

Mar 3: GM mustard hybrid plagued with technical flaws http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/GM-mustard-hybrid-plagued-with-technical-flaws/articleshow/51231561.cms

Oct 5: Campaigning for moratorium on GM mustard http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/developmental-issues/Government-stares-at-Bt-brinjal-moment-before-taking-call-on-GM-mustard/articleshow/54681907.cms

Oct 5: Experts-activists-allege-committee-held-back-biosafety-data-on-GM-mustard/ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Experts-activists-allege-committee-held-back-biosafety-data-on-GM-mustard/articleshow/54684972.cms

After reading the articles, a search showed that the decision is soon to be made:

Oct 13: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/Government-looks-to-press-ahead-with-GM-mustard/articleshow/54822353.cms

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee will take its final call only after going through the subcommittee’s report on stakeholders’ comments. A plea claiming that the crop had no advantage over non-GM crops and was, in fact, likely to introduce contaminants is being heard by the SC.

In keeping with its commitment to the Supreme Court government has stayed a decision on commercial release till October 17th.

A ‘go-ahead’ will mark a big step towards breaking the logjam and open the doors for commercial use for other food crops too. 

We are reminded, however, that even if the Centre clears GM mustard, it will be up to states to decide whether to use the seed.




Politicians & NGOs oppose calls for GM mustard, underpinned by WTO injunctions and vested interests


The Daily Star (Bangladesh) has reported that the Indian environment ministry on September 5 published the full report on food and environment safety of GM mustard, seeking public comments until October 5 before the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s highest GM regulatory body, gives final approval. According to the report, the GM mustard, developed through public funding by a team of scientists at University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC), has 30% higher yield potentials than the varieties grown in Indian oilseed fields now.

Conflict of interest


The Hindustan Times reports that several officials who sit on India’s biotech regulator, which is preparing to take a decision on genetically modified mustard, are also associated with global organisations that lobby for GM crops. Such an arrangement represents potential conflicts of interest and critics argue that there must be an arm’s length distance. The HT adds that most of the scientists who serve as regulators are developing GM crops.

Devinder Sharma gives historical context: “Thirty years back, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of what was later called as Yellow Revolution. The Oilseeds Technology Mission he launched in 1986 converted India from being a major importer to become almost self-sufficient in edible oil production by 1993-94, in less than ten years. A remarkable achievement, indeed.

And then began the downslide. India happily bowed to World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressures to kill its Yellow Revolution . . . Severe cuts in import tariffs brought in a flood of cheap imports pushing farmers out of cultivation. Import duties – from a bound level of 300% were slashed to almost zero – in a phased manner. As a result, farmers abandoned cultivation of oilseeds crops and the processing industry too pulled down the shutters. India today imports more than 67% of its edible oil requirement costing a whopping Rs 66,000-crore”.

Sharma’s recommendation: raise the import duties on edible oil and provide farmers with a higher procurement price

He relates that Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said India is keen to cut down the huge import bill of edible oils and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh thinks that this can be done by allowing the commercial cultivation of the controversial genetically modified mustard (GM Mustard) in the name of increasing productivity. But cultivation of genetically modified Bt cotton has brought about an increase in the application of chemical pesticides in India and elsewhere (see Sharma) and in whitefly and bollworm attacks. There are said to be five non-GM mustard varieties which yield significantly higher than the transgenic variety DMH-11.

NGO and political opposition

  • NGOs actively opposing GM in agriculture include, Kavitha Kuruganti (representing an anti-GM advocacy group), Vandana Shiva (Navdanya), the Coalition for a GM-Free India Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements and a farmers’ organisation, Kisan Mahapanchayat.
  • The chief minister of Patna in Bihar, Nitish Kumar, recently wrote to the Centre criticising its “clandestine” approach.
  • Several ministers and bureaucrats from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab have also opposed GM crops.
  • In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the AAP government would not support commercialization of genetically modified mustard. He alleged that Delhi University had been conducting field trials of GM crops without a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Delhi government – an illegal action.
  • He also questioned the “secrecy and hushing-up” of the application process for commercialization before the genetic engineering appraisal committee of the environment and forests ministry (MoEF).
  • India Today reports that the AAP is to make opposition to GM mustard a feature of their campaign for the 2017 Punjab Assembly Elections, holding public meetings in towns and villages.

New Delhi TV refers to several steps to be taken before a GM mustard crop can be released for use in farmer fields but only two are specified:

‘A political call’ to be taken by the environment minister and by the agriculture minister. A report which has been posted online and seeks the public’s feedback within a month.

People can use this link to post their comments. The comments can also be emailed to mustard.mef@gov.in till October 5, 2016.

45% less GM cotton grown in India this season: indigenous seeds and other food crops are sown

Information sent by a reader is summarised below.

20 June: decision to cultivate GM mustard deferred

The Economic Times reported that Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants had sought permission from the biotech regulator GEAC for release of its transgenic mustard variety into the environment. In an earlier meeting in February, GEAC had asked the institution to submit more details to it about the field trial. Today the decision was deferred and its risk assessment group was asked to look into the deficiencies pointed out by a sub-committee and then notify the applicant to make a fresh dossier and submit its report within 60 days. It will then be put in public domain for further consultation.

india cotton picking

27 June: According to the figures compiled by Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research(CICR), published in the Times of India, 72,280 hectares of indigenous varieties of cotton are being grown this season in northern states, against about 3,000 hectares last year.

There has been a major dip in the demand for genetically modified Bt cotton seeds this kharif season and there has been a sharp increase in use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of Bt in the northern states. The area seems to have gone up but the supply of indigenous seeds did not keep pace, sources said. A similar trend was expected in other cotton growing areas of the country too. The overall area under cotton is expected to go down this year.

Sources in this sector attributed a number of reasons for lower Bt cotton demand. Last year, there were heavy losses in north due to a white fly attack. Though makers of Bt cotton do not claim protection against white fly bug, local seeds are known to have resistance against this pest, sources said. Bt cotton has resistance against bollworm pest, considered a major risk. Last year pink bollworm infestation was reported in Bt seeds too. This reduced the farmers’ confidence, sources said. Poor yields and rates to cotton had made farmers turn to other crops like pulses, maize and soyabean, said a source in a seed manufacturing company in the state.

27th June: Punjab Update reports that the cotton growing area in Punjab and Haryana has declined 27% to 7.56 lakh hectares in the 2016-17 crop year as farmers shifted to other crops after incurring huge losses due to whitefly pest attack last year.

These two states had planted cotton in 10.3 lakh hectares in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) but a senior Agriculture Ministry official said that farmers were scared to grow cotton, fearing futher whitefly pest attacks that had massively damaged the crop in these two states last year. Though these states had advised cotton growers to complete the sowing operation timely before May 15 to avoid any whitefly infestation again, farmers did not opt for cotton, despite high prices in the market at present. Instead, they have shifted to pulses, paddy and other crops in these states, the official added.

The country’s total area sown to cotton remained lower by 45% at 19.07 lakh hectares so far in 2016-17 compared with 34.87 lakh hectares in the year-earlier period.