GM herbicide tolerant mustard has “no utility for farmers”, say unions
Representatives of farmer unions in India have written to the environment minister Anil Madhav Dave asking him to reject GM mustard for commercialisation.
The GM mustard was given the green light by the GMO regulator GEAC last week. But the environment minister now has to approve the commercialisation.
The farmer unions say in their letter that they are “deeply dismayed and disappointed” by GEAC’s decision. They continue:
“We urge you to reject this application in toto and not approve this GM HT mustard which has no utility for farmers and is in fact against our economic interests. This GM mustard engineered with herbicide tolerance trait will only benefit the large agro-chemical corporations like Bayer, which are seeking to expand markets for their poisonous chemicals (glufosinate herbicide in this case), and lock us into the package of external seed supply with associated pesticides.
“This is a GMO which is meant to help seed manufacturing companies and not farmers. We already have choice of seed varieties and hybrids in the market. We do not need this risky technology to be deployed in our farms and risk contaminating our other seeds. This GM mustard will also jeopardise organic farming and leave farmers with very little choice in reality.
“The reason being cited for introducing this crop is better oilseed production through higher yields. In reality, this GM mustard yields lower than many recent, popular hybrids and varieties. The testing has been rigged to have favourable results for this unsafe GMO. Some of us who participated in a special GEAC meeting have found that the regulators are biased, unscientific and even lack integrity required.
“Here, we would like to point out that oil seed production has taken a hit due to bad pricing/procurement support from the government, and inappropriate anti-farmer import policies adopted by the government. It is not because we are unable to produce enough or do not have the seeds or know how. If the pricing, procurement and import policies are made farmer friendly we assure you that we can produce all the mustard and other oil seeds the country needs.
“In addition to the various issues with this GM mustard, it should be noted that the extensive cultivation of this can be devastating for the environment. It is engineered to be tolerant to a herbicide glufosinate which is not even approved for use in mustard crop. The result of approving this crop will be the rampant use of this herbicide, increased chemicalisation of our farms, affecting our own health and creating health and ecological problems in rural India. We would also like to remind you that your party had made a promised to all of us in your election manifesto and it now falls on you to keep that promise. The regulatory clearance certainly goes against the commitment made in the BJP manifesto.
“In view of the fact that this GM mustard has no benefits for farmers and is potentially harmful, we ask you to outright reject this application for approval for commercial cultivation. This GM mustard deserves the same fate as the GM mustard application considered for commercialisation in 2002, and Bt brinjal in 2009-10 in India. We oppose it and we request you to reject the application.”