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Navdanya Diary

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Welcome to Navdanya's Diary, an online journal of the spirit of Navdanya.
Updated: 8 min 25 sec ago

Bhoomi 2017: Listening to the Mountains

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 13:17

New Delhi, 1st October: Navdanya, in collaboration with India International Centre, concluded its annual festival Bhoomi, dedicated this year to Listening to the Mountains – listening to the message of the Rights of Nature flowing from the mountains, listening to the cry of the Mountains bearing the burden of climate change, and listening to the promise of agroecology and organic farming to stop the spread of poisons that spread disease and increase Greenhouse Gases that destabilise the climate. A book on the subject was also released.

Navdanya has been part of the movement for the Rights of Nature and promoting Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam, the Earth Family. At the Bhoomi festival Valerie Cabanes , eminent lawyer from France spoke about the necessity to recognise ecocide – the destruction of the Earth and the environment – as a punishable crime. Citing the Indian court’s judgment to declare Ganga as a living entity with rights, she spoke about how there is a need to implement such steps all over the world. Her book “Rights for Planet Earth: Ending Crimes Against Nature ” was released by Dr Vandana Shiva at the event.

The mountains are considered sacred in almost all cultures of the world and have been an inspiration of wisdom for societies across the world. At Bhoomi 2017, panel discussions, talks ad presentations were held by some of the global pioneers of mountain ecology conservation, activists and mountain farmers. Keys speakers at the event were Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling, renowned environmentalist and founder-director of Navdanya Dr Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, President of the IFOAM, Ulrich Veith, Mayor of Mals, Dr Saamdu Chetri, Director GNH Centre Bhutan, Dr Sonam Dawa, CEC, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council, etc.

Communities in the Alps which have become pesticides free have joined with Himalayan communities that are chemical free to create a global network of poison free Organic zones.

Navdanya has worked to train farmers in Sikkim. Chief Minister of Sikkim P Chamling, who has declared Sikkim 100% organic state, gave the closing address and was requested to be an Ambassador of an Organic Himalaya and an Organic pesticide free world. Speaking on the occasion chief minister Chamling said, “We the people of mountains have a huge responsibility towards our country, because the Himalayas are the source of the water for billions of people and we have to take precious care of it. We need to listen to the mountains, if want our future generations to live.”

“Today, humanity is facing a great crisis because of a man made disaster, Climate Change. To combat this threat we have to adapt, and amend our ways. Even in our Sikkim climate is changing, longer summers, irregular climate patterns marked by heavy rainfall and landslides. We have to change now, we have to stop interference with nature and remove the poisons from our food and farms. I will play my part in the mission to make Himalayas 100% organic,” he added.

The festival also featured cultural performances which included theatre, songs, films on mountain ecology and organic farming. Ani Choying Drolma, “the Singing Nun” and UN Goodwill Ambassador to Nepal also performed at festival

Dr Vandana Shiva on occasion said, “Today is a historic moment as people from Himalayas to the Alps have joined hands to make a commitment to the Earth by stopping the use of poisons in our farms and not to allow toxic to pollute our rivers and spread cancer in our societies.”

Being the 30th year of the Navdanya movement, a special ceremony to honour the Navdanya family was also organised, which included seed keepers across the country, farmers, women processors, teachers and other individuals who have devoted their lives to make Navdanya evolve froma seed to a tree. 30 members of the Navdanya family were felicitated at the event .

Festivities ended by 8 pm with an organic dinner crafted by the Navdanya chefs. The menu featured nutritious and tasty dishes made from scratch with a mix of rare and common grains, mountain vegetables, herbs and was attended by gourmet food lovers of the city.

Press release by Indra Shekhar Singh

Live updates

#Bhoomi2017 Listening to the Mountains begins with Gandhi 's song Raghupati Raja Ram @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija pic.twitter.com/JHxD3TlDyf

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 lighting of the lamp by CM P Chamling, Mayor Veith @drvandanashiva, celebrating 30 years of @NavdanyaBija #Bijaswaraj pic.twitter.com/ov1w9oN4BX

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

5 men control wealth of the world, this is what GDP model gets you. Poverty, climate chaos & loot is by their design @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/mSXmb4n7pE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 release of book Bhoomi: Listening to the Mountains by @drvandanashiva Saamdu Chetri & Maya Goburdhun pic.twitter.com/33SGPuRdXC

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 release of Valerie Cabanes's book Rights of Planet Earth in a special ceremony @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/j1yeuBHqAn

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 Bhutan, we thought we gave fresh water to Bengal, in reality today the villages of Bhutan don't have water #SaamduChettri #GNH pic.twitter.com/SDjk3jEpyR

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

En direct du #bhoomi festival avec @drvandanashiva @FondationRaja @ValerieCabanes @NavdanyaBija #EarthFestival #agroecology #womenrights pic.twitter.com/6DLwpqGlM5

— SOL (@SOL_association) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @drvandanashiva honors #GNH director Saamdu Chetri with a #FibresofFreedom shawl, native seeds for his contribution to the Earth pic.twitter.com/YHl2qAUQXd

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @NavdanyaBija family member Rukamini, from Uttrakhand takes the pledge to save billions of microorganism on our fields & in us pic.twitter.com/mA1HoWQTgm

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 'the wisdom of Indian traditions informs us that Indian sages were feminists- Anna pic.twitter.com/jYQPogE7JE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 "we are listen to the earth, we hear the Mountains, so that the future generations can have a living world @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/HQZryBMxVr

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 Mayor Ulrich Veith of Mals, Italy speaks about the threat of pesticides & strategies to make areas poison & pesticide free pic.twitter.com/JSW66COMCl

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

Chief Minister of #OrganicSikkim, @pawanchamling5, speaking at #Bhoomi2017 @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija https://t.co/UtznGDea4L pic.twitter.com/lRRKmK4vdz

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 1, 2017

#Bhoomi2017 @NavdanyaBija family honored by @drvandanashiva for their devotion and service of the Earth pic.twitter.com/CrPQGgjxSi

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 1, 2017

.@NavdanyaBija family with Alps & Himalaya communities joining hands for #PoisonFree Food & Farming https://t.co/vkyaFFIuqM @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/dH2uwRoowo

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 1, 2017

                          
Categories: Ecological News

How agricultural chemicals are poisoning our world. And all the (false) myths about them

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 12:38

By Ruchi Shroff – LifeGate, 18 September 2017 | Source

A world free from poisonous chemicals is possible. And it’s in our hands. The op-ed by the Director of Navdanya International, the organisation that protects nature, the Earth’s biodiversity and people’s rights to seeds and food.

Corporations are putting our lives and our environment at risk through a growing and improper influence over institutions, whose responsibility should be, instead, protecting people and the planet. The visible consequences have made it imperative to expose their devious tactics and their steadfast and corrupt lobbying, recently revealed in the Poison Papers (a compilation of over 20,000 documents obtained from federal agencies and chemical manufacturers about the toxicity of many chemical products, editor’s note). Up until this stark revelation, corporations have almost totally been absent from everyday news. What is increasingly clear to all is the impact of their “busyness” on our lives – an environment that is increasingly polluted and toxic, bad quality and unhealthy food, and an increase in disease, all of which too often aren’t directly linked to these companies and the consequences of their policies in the public debate.

The Poison Cartel

Evidence of the toxic consequences of the policies of these mega corporations, which we call the Poison Cartel, is however growing by the day – small farmers are losing their livelihoods, rural populations are being driven from their land to make way for industrial agriculture, biodiversity is fast disappearing to make way for monocultures, and consumers increasingly have no option other than to buy toxic food grown in increasingly contaminated, chemical infested soils.

Navdanya International‘s latest report, The Toxic Story of RoundUp, unveils this corrosive business and indicates, at the same time, the alternatives to the poison model of agriculture which can’t be considered sustainable or ethical from any point of view.

A poison-free world

Is a poison-free world possible? We believe it is, which is why we must denounce the alarming and dangerous activities of the Poison Cartel. The “Big 6” pesticide and GMO corporations that own the world’s seeds, pesticides and biotechnology industries are now enlarging their empire with mega buyouts. Syngenta is merging with ChemChina (43 billion dollar deal); Dow Chemical, which bought up Union Carbide – responsible for the Bhopal disaster killing over 20,000 people, is merging with Dupont (130 billion dollar deal); while Bayer is now merging with Monsanto (57 billion dollar deal). Should all these mergers be approved by EU and US regulators, just three companies will be left in control of 60 per cent of the world’s seeds and 70 per cent of its chemicals and pesticides.

Over the last decades these companies – which produced lethal poisons during the two world wars – turned to the agricultural market, where they saw enormous potential to keep multiplying their profits. They have enlarged their empires and established monopolies through free trade neoliberal policies and deregulation of commerce, broadening their control over our seeds, food, freedom and democracies. In the name of science these war-based corporations attack independent science and independent scientists to maintain and expand their empires. Corporate propaganda is their so-called science, and the science of biosafety by independent governments and scientists is branded “anti-science”.

Our last studies expose in detail their strategies to generate profits at the expense of the common interest. But what does this actually mean? These corporations liberally spread agrochemical poisons wherever they can, wiping out millions of species, destroying our ecosystems, poisoning the entire web of life. Due to its widespread use, glyphosate is considered the most widely used agricultural chemical in history. Since its introduction, 1.8 million tonnes have been applied to American fields, and 9.4 million tonnes have been applied globally. Some 56 per cent of the total global usage of glyphosate is related to RoundUp Ready (RR) crops, and it has tripled on cotton farms, doubled on soybeans and increased 39 per cent on corn. This is a trend that has to be reversed as we’re also talking about a failed technology. US farmer fields have been witnessing the uncontrolled spread of “superweeds” like amaranth, especially in the south-eastern states, where approximately 92 per cent of RR cotton and soybeans are infested. As a consequence, farmers have started to increase the use of pesticides.

The impact on the environment

We turn now to the propaganda of the Poison Cartel. Is it true these products don’t have any impact on the environment? This has no place in reality. A pilot study on soil contamination by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and Wageningen University in which soil samples were collected in various parts of Europe have found pesticide traces in over 66 per cent of the samples analysed, while only 34 per cent of the samples were clean. The most commonly recognised substances are glyphosate (46 per cent), DDT (25 per cent) and fungicide products (24 per cent). The study points out that glyphosate and AMPA (Aminomethylphosphonic acid) can concentrate on very small soil particles that are easily eroded and transported by wind and water. This shows that there is actual risk of contamination even at very long distances. A recent US Geological Survey study sampled waterways in 38 states and found glyphosate and AMPA in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches and wastewater treatment plant outfalls tested. Glyphosate was also found in about 70 per cent of rainfall samples.

The myths about pesticides

One of the myths is that “pesticides are rigorously tested”. Besides the fact that only a few hundred of the 80,000 chemicals used in US are tested for safety (USPCP), regulatory agencies only test the active substance of individual pesticides based on the indication provided by the manufacturers, avoiding to investigate either the toxicological risk of the product as a whole (complete with co-adjuvants and co-formulants) or in combination with the overall mix of pesticides available on the market and often simultaneously used in fields and gardens.

The agrochemical industry will respond to the first objection with the assertion that pesticides are instead necessary to feed the world, which is both inaccurate and misleading because theoretically there is enough food to adequately provide for global needs, but those who most need it are prevented from receiving because of inequitable production and distribution systems. While causing 75 per cent of the planetary destruction, it only provides 30 per cent of the food, which is nutritionally empty and loaded with toxics. The toxic products of the Poison Cartel such as RoundUp (glyphosate) and Basta (glufosinate) or GMO seeds have led to the destruction of soils, desertification, extermination of bees, rise in health epidemics such as cancer and birth defects, amongst others.

Facts and figures about pesticides

So now let’s get back to reality as Hans Herren of Biovision Foundation recently suggested: 60 per cent of what you have in your plate needs bees. Animals are also affected and so are humans. As outlined in the latest report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, published in 2017, it is estimated that pesticides are responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people each year, of which 99 per cent from countries where environmental, health and work safety rules aren’t very restrictive or are scarcely applied. In a study promoted by the European Union on the impact of organic food and agriculture on human health research was undertaken on the overall impact of pesticides on human health. The report states: “100 pesticides are known to cause adverse neurological effects in adults, and all of these substances must therefore be suspected of being capable of damaging developing brains as well”. In our report we analyse numerous studies and cases, from Argentina to Costa Rica and Sri Lanka (where the government banned glyphosate in 2014).

Solutions are in our hands

What are the possible solutions? These are coming from the bottom rung. All over the world small farmers and gardeners are already implementing biodiverse ecological agriculture, while rejuvenating the soil and saving and breeding their seeds. They are providing healthy and nutritious food to their communities and bringing back food in the hands of farmers and consumers, making big agribusiness irrelevant and useless, along with their poisons and toxic food. In the course of 2016 more than 110 people’s assemblies were self-organised by local communities in 28 countries throughout the world establishing a worldwide network with the aim of creating a healthy future of food and of the planet. The global mobilisation culminated with the people’s assembly and the Monsanto Tribunal continued through 2017. Farming without poisons is in our hands. And as Navdanya’s work over the last three decades has shown we can grow enough nutrition for two times the current population, we can increase farmers’ incomes tenfold by giving up buying toxic chemicals, we can address malnutrition and chronic diseases, and we can create climate resilience.

Also read:

The Toxic Story of Roundup:Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology                           
Categories: Ecological News

The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 12:31

The report describes the origins and growth of the Poison Cartel and the ways in which these giant agri-business companies (Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Chem China, Dow, Dupont, Basf) gain and keep control of their empires, among other things, in collusion with governmental agencies, as recently revealed in the Poison Papers and Monsanto Papers, undermining independent science and our democracies. It also describes the history of RoundUp and of RoundUp ready crops, and their impact on the environment and on people’s health, and the damage they are causing to our ecosystem. The report ends with a section on how the only possible response to the ecological and climate crisis, poverty, malnutrition and health emergencies which confront the world today, is through biodiversity-based agroecology, a toxic-free, harmless and vibrant agriculture, free of fossil fuels and poisons, and redirect our economic interests from the present linear, extractive and industrial paradigm to a regenerative ecological and nature-based circular approach.
Download pdf
Also read: Launch of the Report “The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology”
Poison Cartel Fact Sheet

                          
Categories: Ecological News

The fight against GM mustard in India is crucial for the global war on GMOs

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 17:32

By Ruchi Shroff – LifeGate, 1 August 2017

Italiano

Source

If approved, GM mustard would become the first GMO to enter India’s food chain: this is why the fight doesn’t involve India alone but the whole world.

Amidst the determined push by biotech lobbies to impose genetically modified (GM) mustard in India, civil society movements and farmers’ organizations are once again doing battle to oppose this new product of genetic engineering. If approved, gm mustard would become India’s first GM food crop, which poses grave health and environmental risks.

If approved, genetically modified mustard would become the frist gmo in India’s food chain

The release of GM mustard would threaten farmers’ livelihoods and pose a high risk of contamination of mustard germplasm in a centre of cultural diversity such as India. GM mustard has potential adverse impacts on honeybees. Farmers worry that gm mustard will impact the pollen and nectar collection by honeybees resulting in lower mustard honey production and exports. Farmers and civil society are worried that the approval for this technology will open the gates for the entry of tens of other GM food crops. Bayer‘s Liberty Link crops are only two of the wo main types of gm crops resistant to the herbicide glufosinate.

The case of gm mustard in India

The battle against the approval of GM mustard (DMH11)in India is consequently growing across the whole country. In May 2017, hundreds of farmers and activists demonstrated outside the gates of the Environment Ministry in Delhi, while India’s largest farmer’s unions also wrote to Minister for the Environment Harsh Vardhan asking him to reject the commercialisation of gm mustard. Vardhan is also the Minister of Science and Technology and was one of the funders of gm mustard development. In a clear conflict of interests, he is now also the person who will take the final decision to approve or not. Resistance to the corporate takeover is growing also at a local level. While corporations and their lobbies, such as ABLE India, have upped the ante on the approval of gm mustard, thanks to the resistance across the country, five key Indian states including mustard-growing states have now banned the cultivation of gm mustard. The latest State to take a stand is Rajasthan, which has stated that it will not allow gm mustard even in case of approval at the federal government. With Rajasthan being the state where 46 per cent of Indian mustard is grown, this position could become crucial in the process.

The Indian state of Rajasthan said that it will not allow the cultivation of GM mustard, even if the government approves it

This is not the first time that Indian mustard is under threat. In 1998 India’s indigenous edible oils made from mustard, coconut, sesame, linseed and groundnut processed in artisanal cold-press mills were banned, using food safety as an excuse. The restrictions on import of soya oil were simultaneously removed. One million oil mills in villages were closed. And millions of tons of artificially cheap gm soya oil continue to be dumped on India. Last year, over 124 farmers groups, scientists, lawyers and activists organized an All India People’s Assembly against gm mustard and launched a nationwide ground campaign, working with farmers to practice ecological methods of agriculture with local varieties as well as organising festivals celebrating indigenous mustard and inviting citizens to join the civil disobedience. While the resistance against the imposition of gm mustard takes root, it is important to save and propagate the indigenous diversity of mustard.

The future of the food and farming system of the world

The battle against the commercialization and approval of GM mustard by civil society movements in India is not about the narrow issue of a technology tool in a specific area of the world, it is about a much broader issue of which food and farming system we want globally.

The release of specific GM crops in those parts of the world which are recognized as a centre of origin of those same crops, raises important questions on the issue of germplasm contamination and represents a threat to the future of biodiversity at a global level. In the Report “Maize Under Threat, GE Maize Contamination in Mexico”, published by Greenpeace in 2003, the authors state that “GE crop contamination in centres of diversity poses a major global concern and urgent measures must be taken to ensure the integrity of such centres. We can’t afford to let the very sources of our food supply become irreversibly contaminated”.

The global battle against GMOs

As the immense diversity of mustard crops is now under threat in India, so too are under way harsh political debates and people’s mobilizations in other parts of the world to counter similar issues. For more than a decade Monsanto and other agrichemical industries have been fighting to impose GM corn in Mexico. In 2012, in response to the umpteenth request by Monsanto for authorisation to grow and commercialize GM corn, a coalition of Mexican scientists, the Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS) – Union of Socially Concerned Scientists, published a declaration and launched a wide international opposition campaign.

For more than a decade Monsanto and other agrichemical industries have been fighting to impose GM corn in Mexico.

The declaration states that “Mexico is not only the cradle of corn, the second most important commodity crop in the world, but it also stewards one of the few Centers of Origin and Diversification, from which the world derives the genetic diversity needed to maintain its production in the mist of new plagues and climatic challenges”. With reference to and in support of the declaration, Etc group defined the possible authorization of GM corn by the Mexican government as a “crime of historic significance”. Moreover, the News Release states that “genetic contamination of Mexican peasant varieties will be inevitable. We are talking about damaging more than 7,000 years of indigenous and peasant work that created maize – one of the world’s three most widely eaten crops”.

The victory against GM eggplant in India

Since its approval in Bangladesh in 2013, the cultivation of Bt eggplant (Bt brinjal) has been strongly criticized. Farida Akhtar, founder of Ubinig, a Bangladeshi NGO that maintains community seed banks, declared that Bangladesh is a centre of origin of brinjal and home to over 100 varieties. “These varieties”, she said “now face genetic contamination from the GM varieties through natural cross-pollination”.

The same Bt Brinjal was stopped in India in 2010. At the time civil society movements and numerous independent scientists had expressed great concern on how contamination between the GM eggplant and other eggplant traditional varieties would have been rapid and irreversible. The Supreme Court declared a moratorium of 10 years on any field trial, while the technical advisory committee (TEC) also recommended a ban on the “release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity, as rice, brinjal, and mustard”.

According to Vandana Shiva women play a crucial role in agricolture because boast unique skills and knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity and an economy based on it © Aamir Qureshi/Getty Images

The only GM crop cultivated in India is Bt cotton. The experience of Bt cotton cultivation over the past 15 years has exposed the hype about GM crops and the devastation on farmers livelihoods and biodiversity.

Within a decade, Bt cotton was adopted by nearly 7 million farmers, and they cover 97 per cent of the area planted with the crop today. But the pests for which BT cotton was created have become resistant and pesticide use on farmers fields have gone up.

Not against technology, but for a democratic debate

History may repeat itself. Since its introduction for approval, the fact that GM mustard is a glufosinate herbicide resistant crop has been hidden from the public. Glufosinate is a neuro toxic pesticide that causes damage to nerves and the brain. Mustard is used as a medicine and in every kitchen of India. Herbicide tolerance would mean increased plant residues. The farmers’ battle is therefore not against technology. The country needs a democratic debate on the systems of food and agriculture that protect biodiversity, people’s health, farmers livelihoods. Decisions about what we eat and how our food is grown cannot be left to opaque committees, connected to the biotech industry and disconnected from the democratic processes that should govern our lives and our food. The movements are demanding a high level citizen enquiry which makes transparent the links between institutions and the agrichemical corporations of the Poison Cartel.

Related Campaign

Sarson Satyagraha – Civil Disobedience against GM Mustard                           
Categories: Ecological News

Resistance to GM Mustard in India

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 18:38

Amidst the desperate push by biotech lobbies to impose GM Mustard in India, Navdanya along with multiple civil society organizations is once again on the frontline to resist the GM Mustard. A herbicide tolerant mustard called ‘Bayer’s trojan Horse’ if approved will become India’s first GM food crop which poses grave health and environmental risks, contamination of our germplasm in a centre of diversity as well as adverse impacts on farmers’ livelihoods. The battle against commercialisation of DMH11- GM Mustard in India intensified as it comes one step closer to approval. On May 11th, 2017 Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s apex regulator for GMOs, approved the commercial cultivation of GM Mustard leaving the final decision to the Environment Minister Dr. Harshavardan. The opposition reached the gates of the environment ministry in May with a demonstration with hundreds of farmers and activists at the ministry’s Delhi office against the approval granted to the GM crop. India’s largest farmer’s unions have also written to the environmental minister asking him to reject the commercialisation of GM Mustard.

After hearing the opposition by multiple groups the then environment minister Anil Dave promised to take concerns against GM mustard on board in his decision for approval. However, after the sudden death of Mr. Anil Dave, the environment ministry is now headed by Dr. Harshavardhan who is also the minister of Science and Technology and whose ministry was one of the funders of GM Mustard development. In a clear conflict of interests scenario, he will now also be the decision maker in the approval.

Resistance to the corporate takeover is therefore growing also at a local level. While corporations and their lobbies such as ABLE India have upped the ante on the approval of GM Mustard, thanks to the resistance across the country, 5 key Indian states including Mustard growing states have now banned cultivation of GM Mustard. So far, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi governments have written to the Centre against GM mustard approval, and states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha and West Bengal have stated that they will not allow GM mustard. Farmers in other states have also come out with a resolve to not cultivate this GM Mustard which is a threat to biodiversity, the health of our people and the health of our soils.

This is not the first time that Indian mustard is under threat. In 1998 India’s indigenous edible oils made from mustard, coconut, sesame, linseed and groundnut processed in artisanal cold-press mills were banned, using “food safety” as an excuse.The restrictions on import of soya oil were simultaneously removed. One million oil mills in villages were closed. And millions of tons of artificially cheap GMO soya oil continue to be dumped on India. During those days, women from the streets of Delhi joined forces with Navdanya and the National Women’s Alliance for Food Sovereignty (Mahila Anna Swaraj) to start the Sarson Satyagraha and succeeded in bringing back pure mustard oil.

In July 2015 Navdanya with farmers organisations gave a call to every citizen of India to join the nation wide resistance against GM Mustard (Civil Disobedience against GM Mustard) and protect our indigenous diversity of mustard. Since then, the Navdanya team has been on the ground across India mobilising farmers in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, amongst others on the dangers posed by GM crops and the use of herbicides like Glufosinate and Glyphosate.

Last year, over 124 farmers groups, scientists, lawyers and activists including Dr. Eric Seralini, Nicolas Hulot and Vandana Shiva joined Navdanya to organize an All India People’s Assembly against GM Mustard. While creating the resistance against the imposition of GM Mustard, it is important to save and propagate the indigenous diversity of Mustard, Navdanya thus has been working to distribute seeds of indigenous mustard throughout the country while working with farmers to practice ecological methods of agriculture with local varieties as well as festivals celebrating indigenous mustard inviting citizens to join the civil disobedience.

The only GM crop cultivated in India is BT cotton and if approved GM Mustard will be the first GM food crop opening the floodgates of other GM food crops. In 2009, the GEAC had approved the cultivation of Bt. Brinjal (Eggplant), however the decision was overruled by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh after an intense resistance by farmers organizations, environmentalists and civil society placing an indefinite moratorium on cultivation of BT Brinjal. The experience of Bt cotton cultivation over the past 15 years has exposed the hype about GM crops and the devastation on farmers livelihoods and biodiversity. The pests for which BT cotton was created have become resistant, over 97% of the cotton seed is now controlled by one company and pesticide use on farmers fields have gone up.

In 2015 campaigner Aruna Rodrigues petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the commercial release of GM Mustard where the Government of India had to give an assurance that the central government would not release GM Mustard without the approval of the court. Despite this, the government of India under the pressure of corporate lobbies seems to be on the verge of approving the commercial release of GM Mustard.

On June 11th, former cabinet secretary who was responsible for approving BT cotton warned against the possible approval of GM Mustard. “Had we been aware of the ill-effects of the Bt Cotton, we would never have approved it, said T.S.R. Subramanian, who had recommended the Genetically Modified (GM) variety of cotton for commercial cultivation as Textile Secretary in the 1990s.”

What is GM Mustard? and Why are farmers, scientists, environmentalists and civil society organizations opposing it?

The GM Mustard – Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH) 11 has been produced by a team of geneticists headed by Dr. Deepak Pental at the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi in collaboration with Dairy Development Board and Department of Biotechnology. It is a herbicide tolerant plant developed by crossing an Indian breed Varuna with EH-2 an Eastern European breed using a combination of 3 genes – barnase, barstar, bar derived from soil bacteria Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.

The barnase gene creates male sterility, the barstar gene line is fertility restorer. The third gene bar creates tolerance to glufosinate, a broad spectrum herbicide and a patented technology of Bayer Crop Science marketed worldwide as Liberty Link and Basta. The Bar gene marks out GM crops from other non GM crops thus eliminating all non sterile plants with a glufosinate spray in order to create pollen free sterile GM plants. (Also read: “The Success of This GM Tech Depends on Numerous Unanswered Questions“, The Wire, 20 September 2016).

Proponents of GM Mustard have pushed it is an indigenous variety developed by an Indian public institution in order to quell cries by environmentalists against the corporate takeover of our food and agriculture but Navdanya as well as multiple campaigners and environmentalists have exposed it to be Bayer’s Trojan horse.

In 2002, Proagro Seed Company (now Bayer), applied for commercial approval for the same barnase-barstar-bar construct that Prof Pental and his team are now promoting as HT Mustard DMH 11 with the same claim of 20-30% increased yield. However, the application of Bayer was rejected with the committee deciding that the trials conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on this were not “conclusive”. Nor was the committee satisfied that health risks had been addressed. Moreover, as Navdanya has pointed out, the bar technology is a patented technology owned by Bayer and this raises serious questions of ownership as opposed to the public ownership as being claimed by its proponents.

False Claims of Higher Yields

Proponents of DMH-11 are pushing it with the claim of an increase in yields of 28-30% in comparison to other non GM varieties and thus reduce our annual import bill of Rs. 60,000 crores in edible oils. However, farmers organizations say that the DMH-11 variety has been compared against older varieties of mustard crop Varuna (1975) and Kranti (1982), whereas atleast 4 varieties of non GM hybrids have been shown to have higher productivity. Importantly, the government in its own reply to Supreme Court’s hearing a petition filed by the environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues seeking a ban on open field trials and the commercial release of GM mustard admitted, “No such claim has been made in any of the submitted documents that DMH 11 outperforms non-GMO hybrids. “

If we already have existing varieties that produce higher yields, why are we imposing this GM Mustard in the first place?

Navdanya and Aruna Rodrigues ask:

“Therefore, what is the Union of India’s point? Is this HT mustard being introduced because of its ability to just make hybrids? Given that it does not outperform our non-GMO hybrids, the argument collapses on its essential lack of science and reasoned thinking.”

Conflict of Interest, Lack of transparency and gaps in scientific evaluation

Since its introduction for approval, GM Mustard has been shrouded in secrecy. Activists have been demanding greater transparency and calling the government to put biosafety documents in the public domain. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has been accused to be an undemocratic, opaque and unscientific body where deep conflict of interests prevail and where GM crop developers are an integral part of decision making.

The only report that has been put in the public domain is the “Assessment of Food and Environment Safety of GE Mustard” report. However, the agency didn’t share its full biosafety assessment of the GM mustard publicly online — contrary to the orders of the government’s Central Information Commission, which enforces rights to information. Instead, the GEAC allowed only a limited inspection of its assessment, at its office in Delhi. Calling the biosafety assessment a monumental fraud filled with scientific inaccuracies, Navdanya submitted a detailed critique on the gaps in the biosafety assessment report put out by the GEAC. Navdanya in its assessment raised twenty vital objections against the biosafety report pointing to key loopholes in the reports. The report lacks information and evidence on patents to improper and no feeding studies and blood analysis to herbicide tolerance traits (Illegal as per India’s laws) and further no socio-economic assessments have been carried out along with other health and biosafety tests.

Dr. Pushpa M Bhargava, a member of GEAC and a noted molecular biologist and Supreme Court appointee asked that “the government should put primary data and not just a review document in the public domain”. According to him, the biosafety review does not include the primary data to support the conclusions in the absence of secondary or toxic effects. “In the absence of primary data, it is not clear what is the basis of the conclusion that the GM mustard is safe,” he said. “The risks to health, environment and agriculture have not been evaluated even through those inadequate tests which were conducted at the time of Bt brinjal examination, though mustard is far more extensively grown and consumed than brinjal”.

According to Rajshree Chandra, a biotechnology reports points out “ The AFES report only attests to the negligible toxicity and allergenicity of the three genes – bar-barstar-barnase – using mainly available bio-informatics databases. There is no independent study or cross- referencing of biosafety studies related to the use of glufosinate in the AFES report.”

More pertinently, as mustard is an oil crop, there is danger of mixing/contamination of oils from GM and non-GM crops. The critical policy issues concerning labelling, extraction and traceability need to be addressed well in advance of commercialisation.

GM mustard has potential adverse impacts on honey bees. Farmers are worried that GM Mustard will impact the pollen and nectar collection by honey bees resulting in lower mustard honey production and exports. Importantly, farmers and civil society are worried that the approval for this technology will open the flood gates for the entry of tens of other GM food crops waiting in the pipeline.

Bayer’s Liberty Link crops are one of the two main types of GM herbicide resistant crops. Liberty is a trade name for Bayer’s glufosinate herbicide. “In India, the fact that GM mustard is an Herbicide Tolerant crop is something that is being carefully hidden from the public, said Dr Sultan Ismail at a conference organised recently in Chennai on GM Mustard . A herbicide called “Glufosinate” is a neuro toxic pesticide that causes damage to nerves and the brain. Mustard is used as a medicine and in every kitchen of India. Herbicide tolerance would mean increased plant residues.

A pesticide risk assessment of glufosinate ammonium conducted by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, 2005) classified Glufosinate as a Category 2, R61 “Toxic: may cause harm to the unborn child” and Category 3, R62 “Possible risk of impaired fertility”. (p. 14). It also reported increased kidney weight in rats in long term assessment of toxicity of glufosinate.

India is the home of oilseed diversity — coconut, groundnut, linseed, niger, mustard, rapeseed, safflower and sesame. Our food culture have evolved with our biodiversity of oilseeds. Mustard is the colour of our spring — basant. It is the flavor, and aroma, of our foods. It is a warm massage for a baby, and the glow of our oil-lamps on Diwali. Mustard has been central to the cultural and food identity of the diverse cultures that make India.

This battle is not about narrow issue of a tool, a technology. It is about the larger issue of which food and farming system we want. The country needs a democratic debate on the systems of food and agriculture that protect biodiversity, people’s health, farmers livelihoods. We need an open discussion on the scientific paradigm that guides research, policy and technology development. Decisions about what we eat and how our food is grown cannot be left to opaque committees, connected to the biotech industry and disconnected from the democratic processes that should govern our lives and our food. A high level citizen enquiry is needed which makes transparent the links of all the people in govt who are collaborating with the Poison Cartel to destroy India’s food security, sovereignty, freedom, democracy.

Ruchi Shroff, Navdanya International

Also read

Why Sarson Satyagraha is still needed

By Dr Vandana Shiva – Deccan Chronicle, 30 May 2017

Navdanya condemns GEAC decision on GM Mustard – writes to Environment Minister

Press release, 12 May 2017

SARSON SATYAGRAHA in the News

Related Campaign

Sarson Satyagraha – Civil Disobedience against GMO Mustard                           
Categories: Ecological News