Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NDDB’s support to transgenic mustard DMH11 – serious concerns and objection to the same – reg.


1.       The Chairperson
National Dairy Development Board
PB No. 40, Anand - 388 001 (Gujarat).
Fax: +91-2692-260157, 260165
Email: tvb@nddb.coop

2.       The Managing Director
National Dairy Development Board
PB No. 40, Anand - 388 001 (Gujarat).
Fax: +91-2692-260157, 260165

3.       The Executive Director
National Dairy Development Board
PB No. 40, Anand - 388 001 (Gujarat).
Fax: +91-2692-260157, 260165

Dear Shri T Nandakumar, ShriDilipRath and ShriSangramChaudhary,

Sub: NDDB’s support to transgenic mustard DMH11 – serious concerns and objection to the same – reg.

Greetings! We have looked up to NDDB as a pillar of India’s Food Sovereignty, rural livelihood security and our philosophy of co-operation.In the past, we have joined hands with NDDB when unfair trade rules have threatened the livelihoods of our small farmers and milk producers in India.

We write this letter with great concern that in supporting the transgenic mustard research of Dr Deepak Pental and team in University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC), NDDB is departing from its commitment to promote interests of small farmers and dairy producers, and to bring to Indian consumers healthy and safe food.

The GM mustard research and the rush to commercialise it are riddled with controversy and grave dangers.The UDSC’s GM mustard is based on the same traits as those in the Bayer – Pro-Agro R&D effort on a transgenic GM mustard hybrid that was rejected in 2002; Bayer withdrew its herbicide resistant GMO mustard application at that time.How can the same genetic modification in mustard that failed biosafety in 2002 be considered safe today?

The Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology has revealed that it has no idea where the GM lines in this high profile case come from, and who gave permission for research.  Meanwhile, as you are aware, DrPental has also been accused of plagiarism by a colleague.
We are deeply concerned with the biosafety of GM mustard in the context of India’s rich biodiversity, with India being a Centre of Diversity of BrassicaSp, and the fact that our farms are small.Introducing GMO mustard with sterility-creating genes and herbicide tolerant genes is a recipe for genetic contamination and destruction of our small farm ecology and economy.The transgenes in the GMO mustard include the sterility-inducing barnase. This could “leak” and contaminate our Brassica biodiversity.
When asked about contamination of other (wild) species by the GM mustard, the then Vice Chancellor Dr Deepak Pental admitted in an interview to journalists from Down To Earth magazine that non-transgenic Brassica junceaas well as Brassica rapagrown in eastern India can ‘receive’ these genes (from GM mustard). He also says that “it is wrong to claim that transgenes won’t move to non-transgenic material. If you have a selection over it like a herbicide, then they spread very quickly....GM Brassica juncea can cross with non-GM juncea”.If DrPental knows that contamination is inevitable, he is in effect accepting that in the Indian context, GMO mustard cannot pass the test of safety.The Indian Supreme Court, in the ongoing case on GMO field trials has expressly ordered that the regulators should ensure that no such contamination takes place.

The Supreme Court as well as the Central Information Commission had also ordered several years ago that all Biosafety information should be put in the public domain. This order has been blatantly violated in the GM mustard (DMH11) case, where everything that should be transparent is shrouded by a cloud of secrecy.
Importantly, our concern is also with our food and nutritional security. There is much evidence on the harmful effects of GM foods on our health. Mustard is both an Oilseed crop and a vegetable. Sarsonka Sag is one of the most popular dishes of north India, and is the basis of health and identity here.Contamination and genetic pollution will rob Indians of a major source of safe green leafy vegetables and pure oil.

Meanwhile, the claim that genetic engineering of mustard increases yields is false. Firstly, it is wrong to compare the yield of the GMmustard hybrid with a variety. A valid comparison would be of the GM hybrid with the non-GM hybrid. Secondly, there are non-GM hybrids in the market and for increasing yields through hybridization, hazardous technologies like GM technology are not needed. This is a trait that is being introduced to facilitate the business of seed producers and not meant for farmers. Unlike in the largescale industrial agriculture in the West, in the small farms of India, mustard is frequently grown intercropped with wheat, and the productivity of wheat plus mustard is always higher than the productivity of wheat or mustard alone. There are agronomic practices based on sustainable agro-ecology like System of Mustard Intensification which can be deployed to improve productivity rather than opt for irreversible, uncontrollable and irresponsible options like transgenics.

Further, the UDSC GM mustard is herbicide-resistant and will facilitate the backdoor entry of herbicide tolerant crops into India. The TEC of the Supreme Court has clearly stated that Herbicide tolerant GM crops and GM crops of which we are the Centre of Diversity should not be introduced in India.

Given all the above, we request you to follow the recommendations of independent leading scientists of India in the TEC, and stop supporting this project on scientific grounds of biosafety, to protect our biodiversity and farmers’ livelihoods and to uphold consumer right to safe food and food of their choice.

This GM mustard is unneeded, unwanted and unsafe. We look forward to receiving a confirmation that you will not be promoting the commercialization of GM mustard hybrid DMH11. Since developers of this transgenic mustard, who you have supported, is trying to rush the commercialization, it is urgent for the national interest and public interest, that the people of India receive a clear message from NDDB by the middle of September.

If we fail to hear from you about your withdrawal of support to GMO mustard by 15th September, we will be compelled to call for a boycott of Dhara, as part of the SarsonSatyagraha,to defend the rights of India’s farmers and consumers, beginning with Gandhi’s birth anniversary, 2nd October 2015. The All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements has already given a call that NDDB stop supporting GMO mustard.

On behalf of outfits and organisations that represent lakhs of citizens of India, we want to continue to be proud of NDDB and support all the ethical brands it has promoted. Please do not let GMO mustard come in the way of your own legacy, and your being a lighthouse of the cooperative spirit that serves the Indian producers and consumers.We will be happy to come and discuss these issues personally with you.


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