Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016
Wider Implications of GM Mustard can be Disastrous
Sunday 18 September 2016
The debate about the genetically modified (GM) mustard variety called transgenic mustard hybrid (DMH-11) has now reached a critical stage and very high-power efforts are being made to get it approved as India’s first GM food crop variety. Several scientists, farmers’ organisations, environment and health activists have drawn attention to several problems which are specific to this GM crop variety. In petitions sent to the government they have pointed out that DMH-11 testing was absolutely inadequate, incomplete and in some contexts even rigged. They have also pointed to serious lapses in the regulation process, more specifically drawing attention to how the conflict of interests has destroyed public faith in regulation.
This has been confirmed more recently by a report in the Hindustan Times. In a news report, dated September 9, and titled, ‘GM crops: Biotech regulators’ career trajectories show conflict of interest’, Zia Haq has written: “Key officials in India’s biotech regulator, which is preparing to take a decision on genetically modified mustard, are also associated with global organisations that lobby for GM crops, HT has learnt ...Scientists who serve as regulators are mostly GM crop developers themselves, another area of conflict roles.”
These and other objections specific to DMH-11 must also be seen and examined in the wider context of the more general objections of a very serious nature relating to the many-sided threats to environment, farming and health which have been voiced by several eminent scientists from time to time. For example, after a detailed review of the experience of GM crops, eminent figures among several scientists, who comprise the Independent Science Panel, concluded very clearly: “Sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in serious irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.”
Earlier debates on GM crops took place in the context of varieties developed by multinational companies or their subsidiary crops, and some people say that they have less objections now as the controversial mustard variety has been developed by university scientists. But this ignores the fact that the GM technology is very heavily concentrated in the hands of a few multinational companies and so once the doors for GM crops are somehow opened in the name of independent researchers, then actually it is the multinational companies and their subsidiaries who will exploit the resulting opportunities to tighten their grip on our food and agriculture system.
Hence the campaign against the approval of GM mustard crop should get the full support of all those who believe in protecting our farming, our health as well as our self-reliance from the exploitative grip of the multinational companies.
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