Eminent Indian scientists write to Javadekar raising concerns on ongoing process to approve commercial cultivation of GM Mustard

Following the largest farmers groups objecting to the application for release of GM Mustard, more than 100 scientists (social scientists, agriculture scientists, biotechnologists, ecologists and other related disciplines) have asked the Minister for Environment , Forests & Climate Change not to proceed with the application for commercialisation of GM mustard. They have written to the Minister as well as the PM. Here is the copy of the letter.

To: February 4th, 2016

Shri Prakash Javadekar,

Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change,

Government of India

Dear Shri Javadekar,

Sub: Strong objection against, and deep concerns with regard to the secretive and hurried processing of GM mustard “environmental release” application and the GMO in question – Asking Government of India to stop the possible approval of GM mustard – reg.

We, the undersigned scientists representing various fields of scientific expertise pertaining to India’s food and farming, understand from media reports that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is scheduled to meet on February 5, 2016 in a meeting that is likely to take a final call on GM mustard commercialisation in India.

Proceeding forward in this hurried and secretive fashion, when there are many pending issues related to GM crops and their regulation in India – including examination of the entire biosafety assessment regime and its ability to actually protect India’s environment and citizens’ health from the risks of modern biotechnology – reeks of sinister motives that don’t favour ordinary citizens’ interests. We also understand that the current processes undertaken by the regulators are actually defying Supreme Court and Central Information Commission Orders in terms of transparency and independence of regulation and would like to warn the government that this will only erode the confidence of society on regulators as well as the scientific establishment in general.

There is absolutely no justification for any government to exhibit this kind of tearing hurry, that too in a highly secretive manner, without allowing public scrutiny or participation on a matter that is close to most citizens – safety of our food and environment.

This particular GMO – GM Mustard hybrid DMH11 developed by the CGCMP of Delhi University – has been a matter of concern from the beginning. Mustard is a crop for which India is the Centre of Diversity. It is a crop which is used in various ways and an integral part of the lives of most Indians in many ways – its use in traditional medicinal systems is also well documented. It is a crop that already has non-GM hybrids available for farmers, and has in the recent past been shown to yield impressively under agro-ecological approaches. Therefore, the very transgenic modification of this crop should have been rejected by the regulators. The GMO uses toxic genes like barnase which is well-established to cause cell toxicity, and which has possibility of being transferred to create male sterile progeny. Genetic Use Restriction Technology or GURT, which is rejected by Indian law, has been employed here. Further, DMH11 is Herbicide Tolerant, which has been recommended against by many credible committees earlier. The crop developer saying that such a HT trait need not be used by the farmers since weeds are not a problem in mustard crop is a naïve argument to say the least, since neither the farmers nor the corporations are going to refrain from using a HT crop, if the trait exists. Pollen flow, even in a seemingly small radius will be a problematic situation in Indian growing conditions with our marginal and smallholdings, in addition to the fact that physical contamination is also inevitable. The crop developer himself has admitted to this possibility already.

It is not clear why the regulators are considering processing this application in the first instance, when more basic questions are unaddressed. We understand that the main funder of this DMH11 R&D project has withdrawn support. This makes us wonder if the regulators have asked for reasons of the same, since they could have relevance for the regulatory processes underway. We also gather from reports that major mustard-growing states have come out against this GMO and have rejected it for their states. Why is the Centre defying the views and decisions of state governments?

As scientists in various relevant fields, we ask the Government of India to put an end to regulation that is secretive, and that has any elements of conflict of interest. We would like the government to put out all biosafety data in the public domain for scrutiny by all concerned. We would also like to see the regulation streamlined urgently, where any application has to be assessed based on the need for a particular GMO, and not processed just because an application has been received. We ask you not to proceed further with this GM mustard “environmental release” application.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. V S Vijayan,

Chairman, Salim Ali Foundation

Thrissur, Kerala

Phone No: 9446372880


1. Dr Abey George, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences-Kerala Centre, Trivandrum

2. Dr Amar Singh Azad, Director, Centre for Environmental Health , Patiala

3. Dr.Ambika Varma, Associate Professor (Retd.), College of Forestry, Kerala Agriculture University, Mannuthy, Trichur

4. Dr. Amit Basole, Biotechnologist and Asst Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

5. Dr Amruth M, Scientist, Forestry and Human Dimensions, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala

6. Prof. Amulya Kumar Panda, Former Principal, Ravenshaw College, Cuttack .

7. Dr. Anoop Das, Assistant Professor, M.E.S. Mampad College, Malappuram, Kerala

8. Dr.Arun P R ,Ecologist, SACON, Coimbatore

9. Dr Arundeep Ahluwalia, Former Chairman, Department of Geology, Panjab University,Chandigarh

10. G. Arunima, Professor and Chair, Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067

11. Dr Ashok Dhawan, Former Head Dept. of Entomology, President, Indian Ecological Society

12. Dr. Ashish Ghosh, Former Member GEAC & Central Biodiversity Authority

13. Dr. Atul Mehta, Research Scientist (Rice), Anand Agriculture University.

14. Prof.(Rtd.) T.K.Basu, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya

15. Prof.(Rtd.) R.N.Basu , Ex. VC, Calcutta University & Agriculture Scientist

16. Dr A Biju Kumar, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

17. Dr C T S Nair, Former Chief Economist (Forestry Dept), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Former, Exec-Vice President, Kerala State Science Technology and Environment Council, Kerala

18. Dr Christopher, Reader, Dept of Environmental Sciences, M G University, Kerala

19. Dr.Dhanada Mishra, Director – KMBB College of Engg and Tech,Bhubaneswar, Odisha

20. Dr. Dinesan Cheruvat, Deputy Director of Fisheries & Farm Manager, Model Shrimp Farm & Training Centre, Thrissur, Kerala

21. Dr E Kunhikrishnan, Associate Professor(Retd), Dept of Zoology, Kerala University, Trivandrum

22. Dr. K.C. Dalal, Retd. Director, National Research Centre for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants(ICAR) ( Now known as DMAPR.)

23. Dr Debal Deb, Centre for Inter Disciplinary Studies, West Bengal.

24. Dr.J. Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum

25. DR.W.R.Deshpandey Ex. Joint Director Extension JNKVV, Jabalpur

26. Dr Elizabeth Joseph, Retd. Scientist (Fisheries), Kerala Agriculture University

27. Dr G P I Singh , VC, Adesh University , Bathinda

28. Dr Hari Narayanan, Scientist, Professor, Guruvayoorappan College, Trichur

29. Dr. Hema M, Agricultural Economics, College of Horticulture, Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur

30. Dr Imrana Qadeer, Distinguished Professor, CSD, Delhi

32. Dr Indira Devi, Professor (Economics), Kerala Agriculture University

33. Jagatabandhu Mohapatra , BAMS , MPH , Ayurveda Professional

34. Dr Jayanta K Das, MBBS, MD, Professor, Department of Dermatology, Vivekananda Institute of Medical Science, Kolkata

35. Dr Jyothi Krishnan, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences-Kerala Centre, Trivandrum.

36. A.J.T. Johnsingh

37. Dr.G.S.Kaushal , Ex.Director Agriculture, Govt.of Madhya Pradesh

38. Dr. Kesavapillai Prathapan, Kerala Agricultural University

39. Prof.Dr.K.K.Krishnamoorthy, President, Indian Society for Certification of organic products,Coimbatore

40. Dr. Lala Aswini Kumar Singh, PhD , Former Sr. Research Officer, Govt. of Odisha, Forest and Env Department

41. Dr Lalitha Vijayan, Sr Scientist, Salim Ali Foundation and formerly, Acting Director and Senior Principal Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural Studies (SACON), Coimbatore

42. Dr. Latha Anantha, Agriculture Scientist, River Research Centre, Kerala

43. Dr Mammen Chundamannil, Scientist, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala

44. Dr T K Maqbool, Professor in Zoology, Calicut University, Kerala

45. Dr.Mathew Koshy ,Retd. Principal of Bishop Moore College Mavelikara

46. Dr.Maya Mahajan, Associate Prof, Environmental Studies, Centre for Sustainable Future.

47. Ms Meera Abraham, Scientist (Wildlife), Presently Independent Research.

48. Dr. K.G. Mehta, Retd. Rice specialist, Gujarat Agri University

49. Dr Mira Shiva, Doctors for Food Safety and Biosafety

50. Dr. Minoo Parabiya, Retd.Botany Expert, Professor and Head, Dept of BioSciences, South Gujarat University and member, Gujarat Biodiversity Board

51. Dr.Mohan Rao, Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

52. Dr.Nandakumar D, Associate Prof in Geography (Retd), Kerala University.

53. Dr D Narayana, Technical Advisor, Kerala State Planning Board, Govt of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram

54. Dr Nalini Naik, SEWA-Kerala, Trivandrum.

55. Dr. Nandini Rajamani, Co-Director, India Biosciences, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

56. Dr.A.M.Ojha Soil Scientist Indore

57. Prof Om Damani, IIT Bombay

58. Ms. Pallavi Gupta, Public Health Professional

59. Dr.S.N.Pandey Ex. Director Wheat Research Station Indore

60. Dr. Ponnammal Natarajan, (retd) Dean, Anna University

61. Dr. Partha Chakrabarti , MBBS , MD , PhD (Boston Univ),Geneticist , Senior Scientist ,
CSIR & Academy of Science , Innovation & Research (Acad-SIR),Kolkata

62. Fr. Dr J Prasant Palakkappillil, Principal, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kochi, Kerala

63. Dr. Parthiba Basu, Associate Professor & Head Ecology Research Unit, Department of Zoology & Director, Centre for Pollination Studies Calcutta University

64. Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray, PhD, Assistant Professor and Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences ,Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata

65. Dr.Pradeep Kumar, IIT Mumbai

66. Dr N N Panicker, Scientist, Independent Thinker and Innovator (Ocean Engineering)

67. Dr P K Prasadan, Professor in Botany, University of Calicut, Kerala

68. Prof M K Prasad, Senior Scientist and Ex-Pro-Vice Chancellor, Calicut University.

69. Dr. R Prakash Kumar, Director, Malabar Botanical Garden & Institute for Plant Sciences, Kozhikode 673 014, Kerala State

70. Dr.Rekha A. Nair M.D (Path), Additional Professor of Pathology, Regional Cancer Centre, Trivandrum-695011

71. Dr. V. V. Robin, Fellow, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

72. Prof Rabindranath Majumdar, Professor (retired ) , Dept of Chemical Technology
University of Calcutta & Member , West Bengal State Council of Biotechnology

73. Dr.J.S.Raghu, Dean, Atal Bihari Hindi University, Bhopal

74. Dr. Rajendra Khimani, Horticulture Expert, Registrar, Gujarat Vidypith

75. Dr Rajeswari Raina, Scientist, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, NISTADS, Delhi

76. Dr Rajneesh Arora, Former VC, Punjab Technical University

77. Dr. Ramkrushna Panigrahi . MD , Retired , Chief District Medical Officer , Government of Odisha

78. Dr Ritu Priya, Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

79. Dr Robert B Grubh Ph.D.D., Former Principal Scientist, Bombay Natural History Society

80. Dr R Jayaraj, Scientist, Division of Forest Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala

81. Dr. T. V. Sajeev, Scientist (Department of Entomology), Programme Coordinator (Forestry and Human Dimension), Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur

82. Dr Santhi, Ecologist, Trivandrum, Kerala

83. Dr Sarala Panickar, Entomologist (Retd), Kerala Agriculture University

84. Dr Seema Purushothaman, Professor (Development Studies), Azim Premji University, Bangalore

85. Dr Shaji, Expert in Fisheries, Formerly Scientist, Kerala State Biodiversity Board

86. Dr. Shaju Thomas, Professor and Head, Department of Zoology, Nirmalagiri College, Muvatupuzha; Kerala

87. Dr TV Sajeev, Scientist (Entomologist), Forest Health, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Kerala

88. Dr. Safique-Ul-Alam, Genetics & Plant Breeding

89. Dr. Sailabala Padhi, Former Prof. of Botany, and Director,Centre for Environmental Studies, Brahmapur ,Ganjam

90. Dr.Satpute Ex. Dean JNKVV Jabalpur

91. Dr. S. Sankar, Programme Coordinator (Forestry and Human dimension), Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur

92. Dr K V Sankaran, Former Director, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Kerala

93. Prof Shambu Prasad, Science Policy Analyst and STS Studies Expert

94. Dr.S.R.Sharma, Ex. Dean JNKVV, Jabalpur

95. Dr.S.R.Shroff, Ex. Dean JNKVV , Jabalpur

96. Dr Sivaraman, Expert in Indian Systems of Medicine, Chennai

97. Dr Sthabir Dasgupta, MD, Oncologist, Author, Columnist and Activist on Cancer and Medical Malpractices, Kolkata.

98. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Ph.D, D.Sc., Former Head Department of Biotechnology, The New College, Chennai

99. Dr.V.T.Sundaramurthy, Entomologist,Formerly Principle Scientist &Project Coordinator (AICCIP-ICAR)

100. Dr Sundara Narayana Patro, President, Orissa Environmental Society,Former Professor of Botany and Head of Regional Station, CICR, Coimbatore, TamilNadu

101. Prof. Subhasish Mukhopadhyay, Department of Biophysics, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics,Calcutta University

102. Dr.Sudarshan Iyengar, Economist, Ex. Director, Gujarat Institute for Developmental Research and Ex. VC, Gujarat Vidyapeeth

103. Prof Sujay Basu, Prof & Head (retired) , Center for High Energy Physics, Jadavpur University & Vice Chairman State Council of Biotechnology , West Bengal

104. Dr.Thakur , Ex. Scientist, Wheat Research Station Indore

105. Dr Thara K G, Member, Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, Govt. Of Kerala

106. Dr Thomas Varghese, Soil Scientist (Retd.), Kerala Agriculture University, Ex-Chairman, Kerala State Agriculture Prices Board

107. Dr. Tushar Chakraborty , Ph D, Molecular Geneticist, Asst Professor (former), University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Centre , USA;Principal Scientist & Associate Professor CSIR & Academy of Science , Innovation & Research (Acad-SIR) Science Communicator ,Policy Analyst and Science Writer, Member , State Council of Biotechnolgy , West Bengal

108. Dr Usha Balram, Professor and Head (Retd.), Dept of Zoology, All Saints College, Trivandrum, Kerala

109. Dr.Uma J Vinod, Scientist (Conservation and Research on Ornithology and Wildlife), Crow Foundation, Palakkad, Kerala

110. Dr. R. V. Varma, Former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversy Board, and Former Head, Department of Entomology, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur

111. Dr. T. N. Vijayakumar, President, Malabar Natural History Society, Calicut, Formerly: Principal, N S S College, Manjeri, Malappuram, Kerala

112. Dr V S Vijayan, Chairman, Salim Ali Foundation, Former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board; Former and Founder Director, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural Studies (SACON, a Centre of Excellence of the Govt of India)

113. Dr.A.R. Vasavi, Social Anthropologist, Bengaluru.

114.Dr Veena Shatrugna, formerly Deputy Director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad

115. Dr Vibha Taluja, Scientists’ Alliance for Safe Food ,Chandigarh

116. Dr Vinod Chander Nanda, Former Chairman, Department of Mathematics, Punjab University,Chandigarh

117. Dr.K.D.Yadav Ex. Professor JNKVV Jabalpur

118. Dr M Zeenath, Associate Professor, Department of Zoology, MES , KVM College Valanchery, Kerala

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