Disinformation on GM mustard spreads

Devinder Sharma, an agricultural and food expert, pointed out that the claims that transgenic mustard will boost production and thereby help reduce the huge import bill of edible oils is completely unfounded

Disinformation on GM mustard spreads

There is a lot of disinformation/misinformation doing the rounds in government corridors and the PMO.
NaMo was recently shown a presentation on the `achievements’ of GM mustard in the presence of Environment minister Anil Dave, Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh and Science & Technology minister Harsh Vardhan where Prof Deepak Pental of Delhi University demonstrated how this would result in an increased production and productivity of this oilseed.

Devinder Sharma, an agricultural and food expert, pointed out that the claims that transgenic mustard will boost production and thereby help reduce the huge import bill of edible oils is completely unfounded.

Sharma said, ` Five existing Indian hybrid varieties outperform the transgenic variety DMH-11 developed by Delhi University under the leadership of Prof Pental. Among the five higher yielding mustard varieties are three in the same DMH series.’

Sharma explained, ` The productivity of DMH-1 is higher by 11.35 percent , DMH-4 by 14.70 percent, and DMH-3 by 3.54 percent than the variety produced by Prof Pental.

This is exactly the point that civil society groups have made before the GEAC pointing out that the productivity claims of a 26 percent increase in production by GM mustard is completely false and they are showing these increased yields by falsifying data "having compared GM mustard yields with yields of low yielding varieties".

`Thousands of scientists in India are aware of how these figures have been manipulated. "It seems to me obvious that prime minister Modi has not been informed properly of all the facts and figures about this crucial subject ," Sharma added.

Kavita Kuruganti, heading the Coalition of GM Free India, pointed out, ` Three Indian scientists who had spoken out against GM mustard have been served a show cause notice by the ICAR. Further, the vice chancellor of the Agricultural University, Palampur ( H.P.), has gone public on his concerns on this issue as also Dr. Sharad Pawar, a scientist, who has been a member of the Supreme Court Technical Committee.’

The Supreme Court has entered the pitch and directed the government to delay taking a decision on this subject till after October 17. The highest court has directed the government to take a decision after the court has completed its hearings.

Environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues, whose plaint on GM mustard is being heard in the Supreme Court, pointed out, "The GM mustard case has not been heard for the last two-and-a-half years. We have included the application on Bt cotton to be heard along with this case because, in January 2016, the central government has gone to the Delhi High court with the admission that Bt cotton has failed and that crop resistance is taking place due to a natural phenomenon and not due to any technological interventions. This is something that has been known for two billion years."

Rodrigues also emphasised that the recent report on the consolidated study of Bt cotton has brought out a direct co-relation between Bt cotton and farmer suicides. "From 2002, we have allowed Monsanto to claim royalty for a product on which they did not have a patent," she said.

"Bt cotton has been eulogised even though it stopped performing nine years ago. The land was diverted from oilseeds and lentils to Bt cotton. Now that the Bt cotton yield has plateaued to 450 kilos per hectare, it is our farmers who are suffering huge losses," Rodrigues added.

She regretted that no risk assessment had been done for GM mustard. "Unfortunately we have no independent regulators with most of our public sector scientists having been compromised. GM Bolgard 2 used in Bt cotton has also been used in Bt brinjal. It’s the same gene. If the government does want to do a GM crop, at least they should use a good construct,’ said Rodrigues.

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