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Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters 

Jan 24, 2017 by

The push to commercialise the growing of genetically modified (GM) mustard in India is currently held up in court due to a lawsuit by Aruna Rodrigues. The next hearing is due in February. Rodrigues has indicated at length that, to date, procedures and tests have been corrupted by fraudulent practices, conflicts of interests and gross regulatory delinquency.

Dr Deepak Pental, lead researcher into the crop at Delhi University, has now conceded that the GM mustard in question has not even been tested against varieties of non-GM mustard for better yields. That seems very strange given that the main argument for introducing GM mustard is to increase productivity in order to reduce edible oils imports (a wholly bogus argument in the first place).

All of this should in itself provide sufficient cause for concern and have alarm bells ringing. It raises the question: what then is the point of GM mustard? 

Consider too that the drive to get India’s first GM food crop into the field and on the market also goes against the recommendations of four high-level reports that have advised against the adoption of these crops in India: The ‘Jairam Ramesh Report’ of February 2010, imposing an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal; The ‘Sopory Committee Report’ (August 2012); The ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee’ (PSC) Report on GM crops (August 2012); and The ‘Technical Expert Committee (TEC) Final Report’ (June-July 2013).

These reports conclude that GM crops are unsuitable for India and that existing proper biosafety and regulatory procedures are inadequate. Appointed by the Supreme Court, the TEC was scathing about the regulatory system prevailing in India, highlighting its inadequacies and inherent serious conflicts of interest. The TEC recommended a 10-year moratorium on commercial release of GM crops. The PSC also arrived at similar conclusions.

It might seem perplexing that the current Modi-led administration seems to be accelerating the drive for GM given that the BJP manifesto stated: “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.” Yet none of this has occurred.

According to eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, these official reports attest to just how negligent and unconcerned India’s regulators are with regard to the risks of GMO contamination. They also attest to a serious lack of expertise on GM issues within official circles.

It now clear that placing GM crops on the commercial market in the first place (in the US) was based on the subversion or bypassing of science and that their introduction poses a risk to food securityhuman health and animal, plants and soil as well as the environment in general.

In India, the only commercialised GM crop (bt cotton) is a failing technology that has severely impacted farmers’ livelihoods.

As bad as all of this might seem, the real significance of GM mustard lies in the fact it could be India’s first GM food crop. In this sense, it should be regarded as a pioneering crop that would open the doors to a range of other GM food crops that are currently in the pipeline for testing.

GM provides a handful of companies with an ideal tool for securing intellectual property rights over seeds (and chemical inputs) and thus gaining corporate control over farming and agriculture.

Despite the GMO industry saying that GM should be but one method within a mix, evidence indicates that this is impractical due to cross-contamination and that corporations and their mouthpieces are seeking to denigrate/replace existing food production practices in order to secure greater control over global agriculture. In effect, the only reason for imposing GM crops on India seems to be to facilitate corporate imperialism.

The issue of GM mustard is not only about a crop but is central to a development paradigm that wants to see a fully urbanised India with a small fraction of people left in agriculture and living in the countryside.

US companies and Washington, via the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, are driving the agenda. Does India want to mirror what is effectively a disastrous US model of agriculture? If this is the case, it is highly disturbing, given that it is an unsustainable taxpayer-subsidised sector that has produced a range of social, environmental and health costs outlined in that last link.

 

By Colin Todhunter

 

The 4th Media

Source: The 4th Media » Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters 

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