GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats

Sep. 17, 2015
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats
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GM Mustard, The Risks and Threats

Editor's Notes

  1. The presentation is brought to you by The Coalition for a GM Free India in public interest. The coalition for a GM Free India is a not for profit entity run and supported by concerned groups, citizens and volunteers. Please visit our website for data, news stories, articles, reports, presentations and information related to GMO.
  2. The health consequences of eating genetically modified crops and their derivatives are known to be dangerous. Lab rats refuse to eat GM food and have shown disorders related to reproductive organs, liver, kidneys, heart, digestion, skin etc. GM Mustard will put into question the Safety of every thing cooked in Mustard including the common favourites Sarson ka saag, pickles, Baghra baingan, Machar Jhol and besan pakoras. Your inaction might open the floodgates for numerous food crops pushing against the doors. The most common GMO food crops being cultivated in the world are corn, soy and canola. Potatoes, tomatoes, papayas to sugar, rice, Maize, Okra and many more are a whiskers breath away from approvals for commercial cultivation.
  3. In 2010, taking into cognizance the public opinion and the many reasons for rejecting GM in food; the Government of India placed an indefinite moratorium on the cultivation of Bt brinjal. 2013 saw the tabling of the Bio technology Regulatory Authority of India or the BRAI bill. The bill proposed setting up of a single window GMO clearance system under the Ministry of Science and Technology, bypassing the right of the state governments and the people of the country to decide and choose. The proposed bill went to the extremes of recommending penalizing those who raised safety concerns instead of the transgressors or the bio-tech industry. This bill received widespread opposition from green citizens and lapsed in the 16th loksabha. Now another Genetically engineered food crop is being advanced for commercial cultivation. This is Delhi University’s GM mustard hybrid DMH 11. Here, we give you the various risks and threats associated with this GMO.
  4. The commercial cultivation of BT Cotton started in India illegally in the year 1998. MoEF Mr. Prakash Javadekar’s batting for GMOS now is reminiscent to the aggressive pushing by T.R. Baalu, Minister for Environment and Forests in 2002; which had lead to the BT Cotton approvals in the year 2002. Today Indian cotton has been completely lost and 95% of cotton in the country is GM. The Cotton seed prices have gone up from the average of Rs. 400 a kilo then to about Rs. 1800 a kilo now. Then farmers could reuse the seeds they saved from the previous harvest but now they have to buy seeds every season. More than 3 lakh farmers have resorted to killing themselves because of impoverishment in the last 15 years. Never in the history of this country farmers had been driven to such desperation. It alleged that that the suicides are much higher in BT Cotton cultivated areas.
  5. Slide 5 The major bio-tech cmpanies Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Aventis and Dow have stakes in GMOs The GM industry holds a lot of influence and power . According to a Nov 2013 Reuter report, a consortium that includes General Mills, Nestle, PepsiCo and Monsanto contributed roughly $22 million to kill the GM labeling law in USA. Monsanto is the world’s number one and aims at controlling world food.The PR and lobbying budgets for Monsanto alone run into billions of dollars. Monsanto’s annual profit of 22400 crores in the year 2010, is probably more than the GDP of some 48 small countries. Shift to cash crops propelled by so called economic liberaliziation, shrinking farm land and increased cost of farming etc have caused acute economic distress to framers who are being compelled to leave their occupation or take their own lives. These factors have made India more vulnerable to arm twisting by developed nations under the garb of WTO, Free trade agreements etc. Developed nations are now dictating Indian food policies and subsidy budgets. Russia Prime Minister has described GMOs as a form of biological warfare weapon. And here lies the real heart of the matter. Henry Kissinger once said that if you control oil you control nations, but if you control food you control people.  
  6. A World Bank-funded Report, GRAIN has identified that traditional farming and not GMOs can deliver food security in low-income countries. There is no evidence to show that adoption of GM crops improves food security even in countries with large land holdings. On the contrary, the United States of America, the largest adopter of GM crops during the last decade and a half, has experienced increased food insecurity and hunger. For the first time in its modern history, America has 50 million food insecure people. Official data and analysis shows that the pesticide usage, has increased in case of BT Cotton. Leading cotton scientists in the country are recommending non-GM Indian cottons. The coalition for a GM Free India brought out a report in March 2012 which delves into the failure of BT Cotton and its impacts. Last two years have seen flooding of our supermarkets with imported Canola Oil being sold under brand names like Jivo and Hudson. Claims around the health benefits of Canola oil are being made by these brands. This oil has been linked to many diseases. IN 2014, the ASCI directed Jivo canola oil to withdraw its advertising making false and unsubstantiated health claims. Serious health effects have been reported from areas where GM Corn and GM Soya are cultivated. These include Allergies, stunted growth and development, Liver and Kidney damage, immune system impairment, reproductive disorders, Cancers etc.. It’s also documented that soil, water, air and other plants, microorganisms, insects and animals also get very negatively impacted. Just two years after the first big harvest of GM soya in Argentina malformations, tumours and deaths were reported in newborns.   This technology is a living technology that cannot be contained geographically or biologically. It has a way of spreading itself in Nature, in irreversible and uncontrollable ways. India has a situation of overflowing granaries and rotting grains and needs farmer friendly policies and better storage and distribution facilities and not GMOs.  
  7. Brassica has taken over soyabean and groundnut and is the most important edible oil crop in India today. The average annual growth rate of has been impressive 3% in area, 7.3% in production and 3.9% in yield in the last 6 years. Mustard oil is reported to have the lowest amounts of saturated fatty acids and contain adequate amounts of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids. Mustard seeds produce more oil as compared to other oil crops. Soyabean oil production was 23.47 lakh tonnes and 19.19 lakh tonnes in 2013 and 14 while R&M hovered upwards of 24.5 Lakh tonnes in both the years.
  8. Rapeseed-Mustard is an oil-seed, vegetable and also a fodder crop grown on around 7 million hectares of land. a While it is sown as a sole rabi crop in most regions, it is also grown as an intercrop in others.   From 0.76 million tonnes in 1951, production has increased over the decades, it touched 8.18 million tonnes in 2011 and was 7.96 million tonnes in 2014 Rajasthan ,Madhya Pradeshand Haryana account for more than 70% of India’s production.
  9. In north India Mustard leaf is eaten directly as a food. Leaves are used in salads, chutneys and as the very popular and famous main dish sarson da saag. The direct consumption of the GMO as a food product was an important reason for the indefinite moratorium on BT Brinjal. Mustard and its leaves are in fact consumed in more direct ways.   The 2010 moratorium order had referred to three important issues 1) chronic toxicity caused by frequent consumption; 2) independent tests that command credibility and not the data provided by the developers themselves and finally the need to have an independent regulatory system that will be in a position to study all aspects of GM technology in agriculture and arrive at a measured conclusion; These issues are equally pertinent in the case of this GM mustard too!
  10. Mustard has been used both as food and as medicine in Ayurveda. The seeds and oil of mustard are used singly and in various formulations and find references in various ancient texts. Mustard is said to promote muscle growth and stimulate blood circulation making it a perfect massage oil. It helps manage dandruff and hair loss. It is excellent for skin, ear and nasal infections and also provides relief from arthritic problems. Mustard oil is used to massage infants, children, old and the ailing for its health benefits. Would oil derived from GM mustard be as safe to use?
  11. Yield increase with this GM mustard is no different from yield increases from non-GM hybrids that are already in the market therefore it is apparent that farmers do not need this GMO only the seed manufacturers do. The Ministry of Agriculture has recently standardized the seed production technology of Indian mustard hybrid NRC Sankar Sarson which yields 2.4 tonnes per hectare. Agronomic practices like System of Mustard Intensification can yield much more. Infact, When all principles of SRI were used, yields touched 4 tonnes per hectare This GMO development project is supported by the Ministry of Science & Technology, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the European Union amongst others The latest figure being mentioned is 70 crores of public money has been spent on this unnecessary GMO.
  12. Its being argued that this GM mustard will bring down indian oil imports. The country has enough oil production and we are probably consuming more oil than the doctors recommend in any case. The cheap imports of edible oils have however been encouraged by the fact that import duties have been cut drastically and the Indian farmers are being forced out of competition. The government can bring the balance back by raising the import tarriffs and assuring a fair market and price to the indian farmer instead of pushing him out of the market.
  13. The three major mustard-growing states in India have taken a precautionary approach and have not favoured the trials of GM Mustard. Madhya Pradesh has been consistently saying NO to GM field trials in the state. The state government of Haryana has not issued any NOC. In Rajasthan, the government withdrew its NOC during the fag end of second year of Biosafety Research Level I trials, and issued directions for burning the crops immediately. The letter withdrawing the NOC stated: The matter for permitting trials of transgenic crops has indeed being fraught with concerns as no unanimity has been arrived at, either in their favour or against them. \   Following this development, Dr Pental knocked on the doors of the PMO and the GEAC. GEAC in its 116th meeting concluded that once a NOC has been issued, it should not be withdrawn in the interim period without any scientific reasons    The state governments’ rejection of GM food crops was one of the important factors for the Bt brinjal moratorium decision in 2010.
  14. The GEAC In its 36th meeting held in April 2003, concluded that further studies should be taken up to address all biosafety and agronomic issues related to Pro Agro’s GM Mustard . Firstly the company documented that transgenes escaped upto 35m, while the ICAR trials indicated pollen flow upto 75 meters. Secondly While the company showed seed yield increase ranging from 16% to 23% over the best check Varuna in different GM hybrids, ICAR results showed only 5% upwards. Trial studies conducted by the company also showed contamination; Male sterile plants in the progeny population of non-transgenic Brassica growing in the vicinity was observed. The Committee noted this as an important issue that had not been taken into consideration while estimating the transgene spread. The claims, technology and testing processes appear to be similar to DU’s GM mustard. It is apparent that the above rationale used by the regulators in 2002 remains pertinent irrespective of public or private sector genesis of the GMO.
  15. Insect pollinators play a vital role to increase farm productivity. GM crops leave their impacts on non-target organisms and pollinators like honey bees and butterflies. Attributed to Reduced weed diversity and abundance and poisoning by the chemicals Researches indicate that the Genetic Engineering (GE) process itself can bring about changes in nectar or pollen composition both in quality and quantity. Interference in the plant biochemical pathways that potentially impact pollinators were observed.  Morandin and Winston’s s peer reviewed scientific paper from Canada captures the difference in bee abundance between organic, conventional and GM canola and shows that bee abundance was the lowest in the GM fields. It was approximately three times higher in organic fields than in GM HT canola fields. A loss of about six seeds per pod was observed. Organic fields in the study had seed set rates of 99% as compared to 78% in GM fields.
  16. Honey bees receive both nectar and pollen FROM MUSTARD PLANTS. Bee-keeping in turn also increases the yield of crops by as much as 20-25% - the same range as the claimed yield advantage of GM mustard! Bharatpur is the second largest honey collecting regions in the country, generating more than 1200 tonnes of honey annually. This was one of the sites chosen for the trials.
  17. Herbicide are synonymous to disease and death. The poisonous pathways can be traced in almost everything around us; seeping down into the ground water, streams and rivers, poisoning birds bees and humans alike. The water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat are all systematically being poisoned by herbicides.
  18. GM crops have been linked to Fibroids Ovarioan Cysts, PCOD, Low sperm counts, inability to conceive, menstrual problems etc. GM technology is dangerous. When coupled with use of herbicides it becomes many times so. Delhi university’s GM Mustard is also herbicide tolerant even if its not sold as such. The barnase/barstar gene system for male sterility and restorer lines has been used The same gene system was also used in the Pro-Agro now Bayer GM Mustard that was rejected in 2003. Many argue that the Pro-Agro GM mustard was also developed for herbicide resistance against glufosinate, using the Bar gene, though the official claim stated yield increase. GM Mustard also has the bar gene and a phospho nithricin resistance-coding gene, ostensibly as a marker but it is also herbicide-resistant to glufosinate ammonium sold under brand names Liberty, Basta etc. It is unclear if the patents for bar gene continue to be owned by Bayer Crop Science or its associated companies.
  19. In India, various government-commissioned, Parliamentary and Court-appointed Committees have repeatedly recommended against herbicide tolerant crops.   The initial publications of the crop developers reveal that the purpose of development of this GM mustard was primarily to induce herbicide tolerance! While Delhi they might choose to apply for permission under the garb of a high-yielding trait. The self proclaimed, ultimate killing machine depends on the use of dangerous chemicals Glyphosate and Glufosinate. Slide 6 highlighted the birth defects seen in newborns just two years after the first bumper crop of Herbicide tolerant soya in Argentina. Glyphosate - is known to cause Endocrine disruption, non-Hodgkin’ s Lymphoma, Nervous system disorder, Parkinson’s disease etc Glufosinate, is shown in animal experiments to be toxic to the neurological and reproductive systems; it is also documented in studies that it is toxic to beneficial insects that control crop pests and to pollinators.
  20. This technology is a living technology that cannot be contained geographically or biologically. It has a way of spreading itself in Nature, in irreversible and uncontrollable ways. GM crops are also known to contaminate other similar and dissimilar plants. In the stores, GM and non-GM products can easily get mixed up. This virtually means that no choices will be left for either farmers or consumers once these are introduced. The contamination risks are higher in case of Mustard because the plant is both self and cross pollinating and the tiny seeds are easily disseminated far and wide. The Mustard seeds can germinate even after many years. Mr. Deepak Pental the promoter and developer of GM Mustard recently acknowledged that non transgenic Brassica or Mustard can easily receive the GM gene. GM technology impacts choices of the consumer. The land holdings of an average farm size is very small; making contamination from a neighboring farm extremely easy. Farmers have very limited resources and often share agricultural implements and machiner, storage space and processing facilities are poor. Segregation for organic certification and traceability will be next to impossible in such a situation. All of this increases the costs of organic farmers for good enforcement and makes organic produce uncompetitive in the market place, making it prohibitively expensive.
  21. There have been numerous cases of GM contamination in India and abroad. since the commercial cultivation started about 2 decades ago. In 2008, two certification agencies had their accreditation suspended with APEDA for failing to detect such Bt cotton contamination in organic cotton. These certification agencies were fined Rs. 15 lakhs and Rs. 7.5 lakhs for this failure. There have been various instances of Brassica contamination since the year 2002 in Canada, Japan, Switzerland and France. Herbicide Tolerance to both glyphosate and glufosinate has been discovered in wild plants n North Dakota., introduced into nature without intent or approval. Unauthorized GM mustard growth was found along railway lines along borders with Italy and France, till oilseed processing factories in Switzerland. Organic Rapeseed cultivation is not possible in Canada now; due to large scale contamination caused by anthropogenic dispersal. One can only imagine the risks!
  22. Instead of compensating ; Companies like Monsanto have sued farmers under pretexts like unauthorised use of patented seeds. In 1998-Schmeiser an organic canola farmer for 40 years was sued along with numerous other farmers by Monsanto for patent infringement. Most farmers settled but Schmeiser did not. He won after a 10 year legal battle. Monsanto was found guilty of contamination and releasing GM Crops in nature without control.   2010- Steve Marsh, an Australian wheat farmer lost his organic status due to contamination from a neighbor’s GM canola field . Marsh lost , when the judge ruled that the neighbor could not be held responsible. The case has gone on appeal to a higher court this year./2015 While many farmers across the world are switching back to organic farming; re-tracing the steps back to sustainable farming is extremely difficult; more so for small and marginal farmers; who are actually pushed out of their lands and occupations due to the high costs of GM agriculture .
  23. India is a signatory to the Cartagena protocol, 2000 and is committed to protection the Centre of Diversity from GM Crop contamination. This was one of the reasons for the BT Brinjal moratorium. Its said that about 13000 accessions of Rapeseed Mustard are available in India. The Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard Research alone has about 1900 of them. India is the Centre of Diversity for Mustard. There are scientists who argue that India is the Centre of Origin too. India is the signatory of the Cartagena protocol, 2000 and is committed to protection the Centre of Diversity from GM Crop contamination. This was one of the reasons for the BT Brinjal moratorium amongst many others.
  24. The competence and independence of the regulatory regime in India is highly suspect. The bending rules and norms, and compromising on bio-safety assessment is known and has been scandulous. Even a public sector Bt cotton variety was mired in an ownership controversy and had to be withdrawn aftrer the Sopory Committee Report The GEAC has been lax with bio-safety measures for GM Mustard. Even the processes for the trials of non GM seeds are more rigorous and include Initial Yield Evaluation Trial, Uniform Regional Trials and Advanced Varietal Trials over three years period in numerous locations. Multi-disciplinary expertise of agronomists, entomologists, pathologists, nematologists and quality evaluation groups etc is drawn in. In contrast, the tests of this GM Mustard have been allowed to take place in an unsafe and unscientific fashion. For eg. Although , the Supreme Court of India has specified zero tolerance for contamination for GMOS The GEAC has prescribed only a 50-metre isolation for the FTs, even after documenting contamination upto 75 meters in the case of Pro-Agro’s GM mustard and even though it is known that pollination via bees is very high Based on this; one might ask; Is public health and food safety less important just becausethe GM in question s developed by a Public Sector entity?
  25. The Bt brinjal moratorium decision note of the Ministry of Environment and forest, the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on GM Food Crops as well as the Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee’s report – all ask for a comprehensive overhaul of the testing regime and the regulatory regime in India. The Bt brinjal saga in India clearly demonstrates that crop developers, who claim safety with their product, are wary and secretive about biosafety data generated. Situation remains unchanged; there is a lack of a good bio-safety regime even today for a robust regime would begin with an assessment of the need for the GMO, and if there was indeed a need ; then assessing the alternatives available for safety, sustainability, socio-economic impacts before going on to bio-safeey. It is of serious concern that despite orders from the Supreme Court, the regulators in India have chosen not to put out biosafety information related to this GMO in the public domain. Even RTI applications have been repeatedly turned down. If the safety trials were indeed satisfactory, then why the secrecy?  
  26. In the absence of data. One must question the credibility of the developer. Mr. Deepak Pental has court cases and serious charges pending against him. This cannot be ignored while weighing the trust factor. One must understand that the very powerful Monsanto, which is also often called the worlds most evil organisation; aims at controlling world food. It already controls the cotton industry in India and is increasingly shaping agricultural-policies and the knowledge paradigm by funding agricultural research in public universities and institutes. Regulatory bodies are severely compromised and riddled with conflicts of interest where decision-making over genetically modified organisms are concerned. These factors make the debate very murky. More than 30 GM food Crops, mostly privately developed and owned are ready in labs to sneak into your kitchens once this moratorium is lifted. Although this particular crop appears to come from the public sector; to some it looks like a lure to slyly lift the moratorium on all GM Food crops.
  27. We know that organic and safe farming are the answers to climatic, food and health problems faced by man-kind today. Instead we are considering bequeathing to our children; a dangerous and irreversible technology that can only spell a diseased life. Is meddling with nature and making unnatural genetic transfer, across species acceptable? Should humankind be seeking control over nature? Even though GMOs are not needed and are outright risky; just because scientists have learn to manipulate genes does it mean we have to find uses for the technology anyway? These are some flaming questions posing all of us. There is one more very important question; when you leave this room; what are you going to do to protect against the assault of GM crops?