New Delhi, March 10th 2016: Releasing data from rapeseed-mustard seed testing evaluations from the country, and comparing it with the results being presented and claimed with regard to the controversial transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11, the Coalition for a GM-Free India along with independent scientists, stated that GM mustard testing has been actively rigged unscientifically to show exaggerated benefits. Evidence to show that unfavourable data (against DMH-11 transgenic mustard hybrid) is probably being suppressed was also shared with the media today. The Alliance also presented data that points to other better alternatives being available.

Speaking to media representatives, Dr Sharad Pawar, a Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) who was also associated with the NDDB project’s testing of Dhara Mustard Hybrids (DMH) as a consultant in the Nagpur University project, said, “By comparing DMH-11 with very old checks or comparators, the crop developers are trying to show exaggerated benefits. It has not been compared with other hybrids like DMH-1. The checks selected do not conform to the ICAR-adopted protocols evolved within the NARS by scores of scientists, may be because it would not make DMH-11 look good against the available best-yielding public sector and private sector varieties or hybrids at this point of time in the country. In fact, DMH-11 would not have proceeded to the next stage way back in 2006-07 if guidelines adopted for promotion of cultivars in varietal evaluation were strictly adhered to. Instead, the testing proceeded by dropping the prescribed national checks like Kranti and other recent cultivars and by using very old varieties as the Checks. It also appears that unfavourable data has been withheld in terms of data submitted to regulators. All of this not only showcases the lack of scientific rigour in the crop developer’s approach to evaluation of a risky technology, but also active connivance on the part of regulators. If it is scientific ignorance on the part of regulators, that is inexcusable too. Existing evidence shows that there are far better non-transgenic varieties and hybrids, rigorously evaluated and released, as well as good agronomic practices like System of Mustard Intensification, which can yield good results for the farmers and the country in terms of production and yield increases. It would be absolutely unscientific and unwise to evaluate anything related to GM mustard DMH-11 based on the current dossier, since the basic claim of yield increase through hybridization does not stand scientific scrutiny, leave alone the other biosafety aspects”. He appealed to NDDB and DBT to officially withdraw from the project so that the government can be saved from the embarrassment of such unscientific work with a risky technology.

Kavitha Kuruganti, Co-Convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We have shown today how GEAC decisions say something, actual permissions say something else, and trial protocols adopted are ultimately different. It should be clearer now for all concerned why data and test results have to be shared at all stages as ordered by the Central Information Commission in 2009, and as recommended by the Supreme Court TEC. If this principle had been followed, DMH-11 would not have reached this advanced stage at all, passing itself off as a superior cultivar! Valuable public funds would have been saved and instead invested in sustainable alternatives for yield increases. We anticipate Dr Pental’s response that he was only following prescribed testing protocols. This would be a completely inadequate and untenable response since scientific rigour requires that best protocols be adopted so that experimentation does not happen at the expense of farmers’ lives and livelihoods later on, due to adoption of non-rigorous evaluation procedures during regulatory testing. Dr Pental chose to follow the ICAR-prescribed varietal release protocols for DMH-1, but is hiding behind the transgenic regulators’ unscientific protocols when to comes to DMH-11. Why?

“It is this kind of intentional unscientific testing that makes the regulators hide data since their inept and unaccountable behavior will get seen by the public, whether it is a case of the regulators rubber-stamping a protocol brought by Delhi University or whether it is a case of the regulators themselves prescribing faulty testing protocols. Field visits and interactions with seed breeders and traders reveals that the real story in rapeseed-mustard is that high yielding varieties are on par with hybrids. Within hybrids, CMS technology is working and there is clearly no reason for the transgenic option with all its associated risks. More importantly, given that an overwhelming majority of mustard cultivation area is under farm-saved seed (leave alone hybrids which are not finding favor with farmers given apparent lack of benefits), non-seed based agronomic benefits have to be exploited fully through approaches like System of Mustard Intensification”, she said.

Data was released in the press conference to prove that DMH-11 testing was rigged to enable claims of yield benefits. However, compared with other extensively tested cultivars, GM mustard actually produces 10.4% to 27.5% lesser yields. Regulatory assessment should focus not only on risks which are being under-reported but also on benefits which are falsely-constructed, the Coalition argued.


For more information, contact:

Dr Sharad Pawar, independent scientist, Nagpur: 9820518757.

Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Bangalore: 8880067772.