GM mustard gets go-ahead: Scientist Vandana Shiva calls move 'fraud perpetrated on nation'

Condemning the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee's (GEAC) decision to allow herbicide tolerant Bayer’s GM mustard, scientist and environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva sent out the call across India to intensify resistance to genetically modified (GM) mustard and "the hijack of our food by the Monsanto and Bayer."

File image of Vandana Shiva. Getty

File image of Vandana Shiva. Getty

The GEAC gave a nod to Bayer's Herbicide Tolerant(HT) GM mustard on Thursday, despite a case still being heard in the Supreme Court and a commitment to the court that no decision will be made till the court gives further directions.

Indra Shekhar Singh speaks with Dr Vandana Shiva  to know more about this decision.

What do you think about the GEAC decision to approve of GM mustard?

The GEAC has given the approval for GM Mustard that was rejected in 2002. Since then, it has been established to be inferior in yields compared to non-genetically modified organism (GMO) Indian hybrid. The approval is clearly a fraud perpetrated on the nation and has been granted under pressure from Monsanto and Bayer.

The GM mustard is actually a Bayer mustard. It is evident by looking at its history, traits and the patents on the component technologies. The GEAC committed a fraud in misleading the nation, that the GM technology in mustard was being used to increase yields through producing a hybrid.

The truth is that the GMO mustard is a herbicide resistant mustard, which is resistant to Bayer herbicide glufosinate, which is established to be a neurotoxin. Further, Bayer has hundreds of patents related to the GMO mustard. Bayer has now merged with Monsanto therefore one can call the GMO mustard a Monsanto/Bayer mustard.

While on the one hand, they are corrupting our regulatory agencies, Monsanto is also trying to influence the courts to try and undermine our patent laws. Article 3 J of the Indian Patent Act excludes seeds, plants and animals from patentability. Monsanto and Bayer are pushing GMOs in order to collect royalties from seeds, therefore they are doing two things simultaneous, pushing GMOs, while attacking our patent laws.  The real game is: They'd like to patent our seeds and are therefore pushing a failed and toxic technology of genetic engineering on India, her farmers, and her citizens.

Is GM Mustard really dangerous? If so how?

The first danger of GM mustard is monopoly on India's mustard seeds, just like Monsanto established a monopoly on cotton seeds. The second danger is the spread of toxins in our agriculture, both through the spread of the herbicide glufosinate and well as the genetic modification which are toxic in and of themselves.

I have done a detailed review of the fraudulent assessment of GEAC. Let me tell the everyone: There have been no feeding studies conducted on animals or humans. Plus, there is no blood analysis available of the animals. Barnase, Barstar, Bar Genes have not tested for safety in GMO mustard. The GMO will cause devastation to not only biodiversity but also irreversibly impact Indian native mustard, bees, soil organisms.

Ever since these corporations entered India, we have already seen this with the case of Bt Cotton and the cycle of rural debt that pushed 3 lakh farmers to commit suicide.

On the one hand, the government is claiming that it has doubled farmers’ incomes, but on the other hand it is rushing to approve GMO mustard, which steals farmers' livelihoods and pushes them towards extreme steps. Simply speaking, GM mustard equals farmers suicides in Rajasthan and other mustard growing states.

You have been talking about Monsanto as a cartel? Why?

The cartel has its roots in World War II and Hitler’s concentration camps. Monsanto and Bayer made explosives and lethally poisonous gases using shared technologies and sold them to both sides of both the World Wars. Bayer was part of IG Farben, Hitler’s economic power and pre-war Germany’s highest foreign exchange earner, with offices in the United States and Switzerland.

Monsanto entered into a joint venture with IG Farben, Hitler’s supplier of Zyklon-B, a cyanide based pesticide used in concentration camps during the holocaust. Zyklon-B was used as evidence in the Nuremberg trials, finding IG Farben guilty of war crimes. Monsanto and Bayer also had a Joint Venture – Mobay. Mobay supplied ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Wars were fought, lives were lost, countries carved into holy lands – with artificial boundaries that suit colonisation and resource grab – while Bayer and Monsanto sold chemicals as bombs and poisons.

They were one as Mobay, part of the cartel of IG Farben. Controlling stakes of both corporations lie with the same private equity firms. The expertise of these companies is those of war.

The focus of the cartel is on India is because we are a land rich in biodiversity and in agriculture. By taking control if our seeds and collecting royalties, both through genetic engineering and biopiracy, as well as a making India a market for their toxic chemicals and GMO seeds, the cartel sees India as a huge source of profit.

In addition, at this point, when large parts of the world have banned this cartel, they are trying to destroy India’s regulatory and patent system to push through GMOs for patents and royalties. Finally, the same people who are trying to control our food through GMOs also control the pharmaceutical industry. So when people fall sick and get cancer, they have cornered the market on their treatment. What stands in their way is India's sovereignty. They're trying to attack that by corrupting our government agencies.

How can India defend our food sovereignty?

The approval from GEAC is merely a recommendation. The government, especially the environment minister, still has to take a final call. Secondly, agriculture is a state subject and biosafety laws of India require state approval. Chief ministers of mustard growing states such as Rajasthan should maintain their commitment to say no to GM mustard. This is the how the Bt Brinjal was stopped in India.

The government should offer farmers a support price for indigenous oilseeds in order to reverse the import dependence on edible oils such as GM soy bean oil and palm oil that was engineered in 1998 by the same interests, who are now using the same import dependence to promote GM mustard. In 1998, I had started the Sarson Satyagraha to defend our mustard and fight against its ban. Today, we need a Sarson Satyagraha in which every farmer and every citizen participates by refusing to use GM mustard seeds or GM mustard oil.

In 1857 we fought against the East India Company. That was our first independence movement. In 2017, we are being called to participate in the third freedom movement—against poison in our foods—and freedom from the cartel hijacking our structures of governance and decision making.

Like salt and indigo triggered the Salt March and Champaran Satyagraha, let this new corruption give birth to a nationwide Sarson Satyagraha.


Published Date: May 13, 2017 01:59 pm | Updated Date: May 13, 2017 02:17 pm


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