GM MUSTARD FRAUD AND HAZARDS EXPOSED IN SPECIAL GEAC MEETING: “We will not allow Indians to be made lab rats in an irreversible and irresponsible experiment” avow farm activists, scientists and others

New Delhi, July 18, 2016: Avowing to step up their resistance against any possible approval of GM mustard in India, farm activists, scientists and others who made detailed presentations to GEAC today in a specially convened meeting of the regulatory body, presented fresh evidence to drive home their point about the fraud and hazards of GM mustard. An eight member team consisting of two farmer leaders, two agriculture scientists, two ecologists, a consumer activist and a farm activist made detailed presentations in the more-than-two-hour meeting that GEAC specially convened for the farmer unions, civil society groups and scientists.  

Delhi University’s CGMCP had in its application asked for approval for “environmental release” of three GMOs in one dossier – that of two transgenic parental lines and a third, which is a transgenic hybrid of the two transgenic parents. One of the key points raised by the team today includes the fact that all the three GMOs being considered for approval are Herbicide Tolerant with serious ecological and health implications, apart from socio-economic. They were shocked that the applicant chose not to present them as HT GMOs to the regulators, and this, they pointed out, had a direct bearing on risk assessment of these GMOs. India in fact does not have a risk assessment regime worked out for HT crops even as a Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee had recommended a ban on HT crops altogether.

Presentations also highlighted the concern with male sterility trait that will lead to yield losses for farmers who attempt to use farm-saved seed. This will force farmers to buy seeds every season and will affect their sovereignty, crop diversity and profitability.

At the end of the detailed presentations, the regulators thanked the delegation for drawing their attention to several significant issues overlooked. They also assured that scientific correctness will be maintained.

It will look into any inadequacies in regulation that were pointed out, GEAC said.

The delegation asked for full transparency and pointed out to GEAC that independent scientific scrutiny of the kind that was taken up by them will assist GEAC in fulfilling its mandate.

GEAC, in its response to the team’s presentations, pointed out that their mandate is limited to assessing biosafety. Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA who was part of the team that went into the GEAC meeting expressed her disappointment with the regulators adopting a very narrow and limited framework to assessing risks,  especially in the absence of any other responsible institution that will take into account various socio-political and economic issues. “It was clear that regulators are limiting their mandate to assessing risks to health and environment, without going into any other issues like farmer and consumer choices. So, who will be responsible for comprehensive impact assessment? This is alarming given that even biosafety is being assessed in an unscientific and narrow manner, in an event-based approach, without independent testing or scrutiny, based completely on crop developer’s data. Even that data has been generated using protocols prescribed by the crop developers themselves”, she said.

Given that Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (to which India is a signatory) has socio-economic considerations as an integral part of risk assessment on GMOs, the current narrow approach of GEAC is unacceptable. In such a scenario, GEAC should not continue processing applications including this GM mustard application, given the absence of any other institution addressing the other concerns, said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

While GEAC assured the delegation that a channel of dialogue with all will be kept open, it did not commit itself to sharing of all information in the public domain.

Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust pointed out that regulators not looking at transgenics as a last option even when successful alternatives exist for a given issue (like yield increase, for instance) is a major concern.  Regulatory system should begin with needs and alternatives assessment, he demanded.

Farmer leaders like Yudhvir Singh of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM) and Rampal Jat of Kisan Mahapanchayat emphasized that seed sovereignty and self reliance were extremely important matters for farmers, for their dignified living and for choices to remain intact. They pointed that this GM mustard will affect this. They also emphatically stated that techno-fixes are not the solution that farmers were looking for, but a policy environment that encourages farmers to produce more. Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance said that it was unacceptable that consumer’s right to know what they were consuming, and to safe food would be violated if GM mustard is approved.

The following were the main issues that the 8-member delegation raised with the regulators:

  • Herbicide Tolerant crops increasing chemical usage, creating superweeds and causing numerous health and ecological impacts; HT crops will also impact poor rural women’s livelihoods and employment opportunity directly.
  • Concerns on possible hidden agenda of giving greater markets to MNCs like Bayer – whose application for a similar GMO with bar-barnase-barstar complex was rejected in 2002 for being a HT crop – through the usage of glufosinate (which is not approved for usage in mustard crop by the pesticides regulator incidentally but where Bayer’s brands are the sole brands in India today) which also holds a patent on the bar gene, were raised. India becoming a dumping ground for hazardous rejected technologies is a serious concern.
  • The effect on farm yields due to male sterility trait transmission in farm saved seed of both DMH-11 and neighboring non-GM crop due to contamination is a matter of serious concern that has not been looked into by GEAC. Instead of fulfilling the hyped yield increase promises, this transmissibility will actually impact yields adversely.
  • The yield claims of GM mustard were busted systematically by presentations that had detailed data which points to rigging of data in addition to violation of GEAC’s own decisions.
  • The authenticity of tests, apart from the scientificity of protocols and methods used were questioned with evidence.
  • The absence of a liability regime was pointed out, even as serious lacunae in the risk assessment regime were highlighted (the tests not conducted and the issues with tests that were claimed to be conducted).
  • The snatching away of choices for farmers and consumers was unacceptable, they said.

The team demanded from GEAC:

  • Rejection of the current application in toto and immediately, for all 3 GMOs;
  • Fixing of liability on crop developers for false/incorrect evidence provided willfully to regulators in addition to violations of biosafety norms laid down for field trials and blacklisting such applicants in the regulatory system;
  • Putting out all documents pertaining to DMH-11 R&D from its inception into the public domain immediately.


Kavitha Kuruganti at 8880067772; Kapil Shah at 9427054132


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