There is a desperate push for introducing GMO mustard, which will be the first GM food crop introduced in India. This push is anti-science and anti-democracy. It is anti-science because the main justification given for genetic engineering mustard, with herbicide-resistant traits to resist Bayer’s herbicide glufosinate called Basta, is to increase in yields of mustard and stop edible oil imports. The GMO mustard has lower yields than non-GMO alternatives available in the country. The government has admitted in the Supreme Court that increased yields are not being claimed. Yet in the media this is the false claim being spun. HT hybrid mustard DMH 11 has failed the first criteria of a test risk protocol of a GM crop: “Is the GM crop required in the first place?” The answer is “No” based on the admission of the Union of India itself in its “reply” affidavit in the Supreme Court. It said: “No such claim has been made in any of the submitted documents that DMH 11 out-performs non-GMO hybrids. The comparison has only been made between hybrid DMH 11, NC (national check) Varuna and the appropriate ZC (zonal checks) — MSY of 2670 Kg/ha has been recorded over three years of BRL trials which is 28 per cent and 37 per cent more than the NC & ZC respectively” (At 88, pg.56).
India can produce enough oilseeds that are diverse, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate. In the 1990s, India had become self-sufficient in edible oils as a consequence of the conscious commitment to grow more oilseeds. The policy was called the Yellow Revolution. It worked. In 1993-94, India was producing 97 per cent of its requirements. In 1998, the same year that Monsanto sneaked in its BT cotton, the MNCs engineered a crisis, got indigenous oilseeds banned and dumped GMO soya oil on India by manipulating a drop in import duties. India had bound its import duties at 300 per cent in the World Trade Organisation. The US lobbies had soya oil duties reduced to 45 per cent. In the manipulated crisis of 1998, the duties were dropped to zero per cent. In addition, the soya bean was subsidised by $190/tonne by the US government and Rs 15/kg by India. No wonder India was flooded with imports, not because of domestic scarcity but due to manipulated prices and manipulated trade and manipulated policy. The women of the slums of Delhi called me to say their children could not eat the food cooked in soya oil. They wanted the mustard oil back. So we organised the “Sarson Satyagraha” in 1998 and saved our mustard. But the imports kept increasing through dumping and manipulating of policy. Compared to 1.02 million tonnes of edible oil imports in 1996-97, India’s imports doubled to 2.98 million tonnes in 1998-99, and then jumped to five million tonnes in 1999-2000.
Today we are importing more than 60 per cent of our domestic requirements. And destroying our coconut, sesame, groundnut, safflower, niger, mustard and linseed diversity and healthy food economy for GMO soya which in turn is destroying the Amazon and palm oil which is destroying the Indonesian rainforests. The planet is losing, Indian farmers are losing livelihoods, Indian citizens are losing health. We can grow enough oilseeds to meet India’s needs. As the farmers’ organisations wrote in a letter to former environment minister Anil Dave: “Oilseed 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.” The government of India is again being manipulated by the same interests that forced the edible oil imports on us. GMO mustard is being forced on us in the name of reducing import dependence. The unscientific and corrupt approval for GMO mustard is simultaneously approval to 100 other crops that are undergoing trials. Once GMO mustard is approved with unscientific appraisal, the floodgates for other crops will be opened. The issue is therefore not just GMO mustard. Do we want more farmers to be locked into debt and commit suicides? Do we want to give up our option to produce and eat healthy non-GMO food? Don’t we want democracy and accountability? We stopped Bt baigan in 2010. There was a consensus in India that we would not become victims of GMO foods. GMO mustard approval is handing over our institutions of democracy to a poison cartel.
We have seen what GMO crops do in the case of Bt cotton. Farmers have been committing suicide because of debt due to high costs of seeds since Monsanto is extracting lagaan (royalties, trait fees). Seed prices have jumped by 80,000 per cent! Monsanto has extracted `7,000 crores as illegal royalties. It does not have a patent on BT cotton seed a article 3j of our patent laws does not allow patents on seeds, plants and animals. Monsanto is manipulating courts to attack 3j, thus attacking not only our Parliament but also farmers rights. Article 3j is the legal expression of the concept of vasudhaiva kutumbakam — the world as one family. For the poison cartel, life is a corporate “invention”. For Bayer-Monsanto GMO means God move over, we will now pretend to be creators of life to collect royalties and lagaan. Patents and royalty collection is the endgame. GMOs are the excuse. When the Competition Commission of India started an inquiry because Monsanto controls 95 per cent of the seed, Monsanto dragged it to court. The Monsanto and Bayer merger intensifies the threat of monopoly over seeds, the first link in the food chain. And when corporations get as big as Monsanto Bayer, manipulating Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the Niti Aayog, the courts and the government is very easy.
The GMO mustard is now a Bayer mustard. In 2002, the ProAgro (now Bayer) application for GMO mustard was rejected by the GEAC. They found in Dr Deep Pental a good trojan horse to continue their toxic agenda. The basic patents on the GM mustard technology are all owned by Bayer. The GM mustard will nakedly become a Bayer-Monsanto mustard once the approval is granted, the impediment of 3j is removed and the seed price control order is dismantled. The decision on GMO mustard is not merely a technology choice. Since GMO technology has been pushed primary to own the seed through patents to collect royalties, since such patents cannot be granted without dismantling the public interest and national interest built into our structures, laws and policies, GMO mustard is a recipe for the colonisation of India by the Poison Cartel. If GMO mustard is approved, India as a democratic, sovereign country dies. If GMO crops are approved, and Article 3j of our patent laws is diluted and distorted, India as a civilisation dies and becomes a colony in the toxic empire of the Poison Cartel. This is why I am continuing the Sarson Satyagraha to keep India healhy and prosperous.