New Delhi, February 3rd 2016: Widespread outrage was witnessed today from all quarters against the Centre continuing regulatory processes to commercialise GM mustard in India, even as state governments have also cautioned the Centre against proceeding further. The apex GM regulatory body, GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) in the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change is scheduled to meet on the 5th of February (Friday) to take a decision on the application for “environmental release” of GM mustard. The Coalition for a GM Free India reminded the government about the serious consequences of this GMO’s release and also warned the government of serious resistance all over the country. Farmer unions and citizens’ groups had earlier started a Sarson Satyagraha urging the government not to jeopardise our food, farming and environment by introducing GM mustard. The Coalition demanded that the scheduled meeting on the 5th of February 2016 should be called off by the government in the wake of various developments, including the serving of a notice by the Supreme Court on a contempt petition that showcased violations of various court orders. If the regulators proceed with their meeting, we can only assume that the government is either under serious pressure from elsewhere, or just does not care about democratic or federal polity in the country, the Coalition said.

This is the first time India would be considering commercial cultivation approval of any GM food crop after an indefinite moratorium was placed on Bt brinjal five years ago in February 2010. This GM mustard, developed by Delhi University, called Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11 (DMH11) adopted the transgenic technology to facilitate hybridization of seed, even though non-GM hybrids exist, on claims of increased yields through such a hybrid. In creating such a GM Mustard, male sterility has been induced in one of the parental lines, in addition to using herbicide tolerance trait.
“GEAC continues to be anti-science, anti-people and anti-environment, and is acting like a peddler of this controversial hazardous technology when it should be running a transparent and independent process to protect citizens from the risks of modern biotechnology” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. In a letter to GEAC, the Coalition pointed out that not only is the GEAC violating Supreme Court and Central Information Commission Orders in this secretive and hurried processes that they are running, they are going against their own established norms. In the case of Bt brinjal, responding to public demand, GEAC had invited public feedback at least at 2 different phases after putting out full data. This was followed by another round of public hearings and expert consultation which finally lead to the moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal. “However, such processes are being given a complete short shrift now, despite major lacunae in your regulation pointed out and proven time and again. These secretive processes, which are keeping out public scrutiny and public views on a very important matter that pertains to citizens is just not acceptable” stated Radhakrishnan. “We can only presume that they have something to hide from the public, and not everything is safe or fine here”, he said.
The move to approve GM Mustard comes at a time when the central government itself is agreeing that Bt cotton, the only GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation in the country is failing to deliver, as expected and predicted. The government, in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court last week on a matter of technology fee being charged by the American seed giant Monsanto, had stated that target pests have developed resistance against Bt technology thereby rendering it less useful in preventing pest attack(1). “At a time when we are learning lessons from the terrible mistake we did with  Bt cotton, it  is criminal to push our country into the cauldron of GM technology from which there is no escape” said Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture ( ASHA).  She further stated that “we can only hope that the land acquisition ordinance fiasco has taught the government some lessons in going against people’s interests. The same fate is in store if government pushes GM crops onto us despite evidence against the technology in terms of its safety and impacts on livelihoods. These risky technologies are not acceptable to farmers as well as consumers and the food security arguments around GMOs are untenable”.
The opposition against GM Mustard has gathered momentum over the last 6 months with farmer unions, civil society organisations, scientific community, political parties as well as state governments demanding the central government not to go ahead with this crop. More than 32000 citizens have already signed a change.org petition started by Dr Vandana Siva demanding Prakash Javadekar to stop the environmental release of GM Mustard.
As in the case of Bt Brinjal, GM mustard also has not found support from state governments. States like Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh which are the leading mustard cultivating states and also BJP-ruled states had even denied permission to do field trials of this GM mustard in their respective states, and have come out publicly against this GMO. Mr Nitish Kumar, Bihar Chief Minister, sent a strongly worded letter to Mr Prakash Javadekar, MoEFCC, objecting to the Centre’s push of this GMO. He urged the central government not to commercialise GM Mustard owing to various concerns.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Shri Manish Sisodia, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, reminded that the current processes adopted for regulating are actually unconstitutional (2). He categorically stated that his government will do everything to protect consumers’ right to safe food and farmers’ right to seed freedoms. Shri. Prabhulal Saini, the agriculture minister of Rajasthan, a state which cultivates almost half of India’s Mustard, in a press conference held in Jaipur on 1st February, reiterated that Rajasthan will not permit even open trials of GM Mustard as it poses a threat to farm livelihoods and there is no pressing need for it.
The Coalition for GM Free India demands that the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, under whose Ministry comes GEAC, should:
  • immediately intervene and stop the processing and approval of this GM mustard;
  • call off GEAC’s meeting on February 5th given various recent developments;
  • make public all the information regarding the safety tests of the GM Mustard without which no appraisal of this GMO should be taken up.
The Coalition warns the govt of a nationwide agitation if it continues with its plans to poison our food and farms with GM crops like GM Mustard.
Notes to Editor:
For more information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti at +91-8880067772
Rajesh Krishnan at +91-7559915032
Sridhar Radhakrishnan at +91-9995358205