The Department of Ecological concerns of CSI Synod is anguished to learn from the media that the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, has recommended the commercial release of the genetically modified (GM) mustard, named Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11 (DMH11), developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC), New Delhi.
We object the introduction of the GM mustard on the following grounds:
Introduction of an herbicide-tolerant crop
1. The proposed GM Mustard engineered with three genes is an herbicide tolerant (HT) crop and has not been evaluated for its impact. Herbicide tolerance trait has been problematic world over due to its negative impact on ecology, the creation of unmanageable super weeds and deleterious impact on rural health. In the Indian context, this will also affect rural livelihoods.
Impact on honey bees and honey trade
2.Mustard is a major forage crop for honey bees. Honey from GM crop fields will be rejected by consumers, both within and outside the country, thereby devastating the honey trade. In addition, honey bees are adversely impacted by GM crops, which may not only decrease the honey production but also crop yields in mustard and other crops.
Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT)
3. This GM mustard contains three genes of which two are for creating male sterility and restoring male fertility. This is GURT technology. India’s Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Rights Act describes GURT as a technology that is injurious to the life or health of human beings, animals or plants and the Act does not register any such varieties.
Safety trials and transparency of regulators
3. It is reported that the multi-location trials were conducted under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research. While the BRL I trials (Biosafety Research Level I) took place since 2010 in Rajasthan, the second year trials of BRL I were stopped by the Rajasthan State Government. It had asked for the destruction of trials fields in one of the trials.
4.Quite contrary to recommendations from various high-level committees, field trials of GM mustard were conducted without making the regulatory system fool-proof. Additionally, when the same
inadequacy prevails in the regulatory system as at the time of declaring a moratorium on GM crops in 2010, permission is being sought for commercial release of GM mustard!
5.It is quite perturbing that the proponents of the GM mustard (Delhi University) have refused to put out the biosafety reports on the trials made so far.
6.The impact of GM crops on the therapeutic values of the particular vegetable or seed must be assessed before taking any decision on GM mustard, as mustard is one of the important items in the Ayurveda treatment, especially for rheumatism, skin diseases, cholesterol, blood circulation and cancer.
7.Since plants form the base for Ayurveda medicine, if they are genetically modified, it would certainly have adverse impact on the Ayurveda treatment systems and medicine, especially in Kerala where Ayurveda is a major industry attracting a significant amount of foreign exchange.
High-level reports and recommendations against GM crops
8.It must be recalled that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report submitted to the Parliament on 9 August 2012, on examination of the pros and cons of the GM thoroughly and on wide consultations, unequivocally recommended the banning of even field trials of GM crops for various reasons.
9.It may also be noted that India is a centre of diversity of mustard having 9720 varieties. Once the GM mustard is released, there is every chance of these being contaminated and lost. Irrecoverably.
10.In the case of Bt brinjal, Dr. Swaminathan, India’s tallest agriculture scientist, recorded his apprehensions quite clearly against it.
Denying Farmers’ Rights
11. Farmers’ worry about the fate of various mustard varieties developed by them over decades in the context of commercialisation of the GM mustard is quite genuine. It has to be recalled that Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Act, 2001, ensuring Farmers’ right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds still prevails. The introduction of GM mustard, for that matter any GM crop, will jeopardise them all, beyond the shadow of any doubt.
Irrational haste in introducing GM crops
12.What is beyond comprehension is that when the world itself is debating over the GM issues, and many countries who introduced them are banning it progressively (in Europe itself, 18 countries have banned it till recently), why is this tearing hurry to introduce the same technology in India, that too without making a proper impact study?
The Department of Ecological Concerns of Church of South India Synod seeks to create awareness among all people about environmental and ecological concerns. It endeavours to encourage people to refrain from abuse of nature’s resources and to strive to keep the earth a habitable place for all. CSI is the only Church in India, recognised by UNDP with an eco Award, in 2009
Department of Ecological Concerns of CSI Synod pleads the Government of India to reject out-rightly the recommendations of the GEAC and declare India as GM free.
Prof.Dr.Mathew Koshy Punnackad
Hon.Director, CSI Synod Department of Ecological Concerns