Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GM Mustard in India: Cautionary tale for Sri Lanka

Mustard Plants
There is nasty debate going on about the use of a Indian developed Genetically Modified (GM) mustard plant to be commercially cultivated. Mustard DMH-11, has been developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University.  It is a cautionary tale for Sri Lanka.

The Pros
  • Purported to be 20%-30% more productive than most mustard varieties. 
  •  Is resistant to herbicide Basta (Glufosinate) made by Bayer 
  • Is resistant to herbicide Basta (Glufosinate) made by Bayer
  • Basta chemicals persist in food where herbicide is used 
  • Contains genes barnase, barstar and bar genes patented by Bayer
  • Barnase, barstar and bar are terminator genes and extremely potent cell poison.
  • GM Mustard DMH-11 patent will be held by Deepak Pantel  
The sales pitch for the GM Mustard is that it will solve India's cooking oil problem with higher mustard oil yields. In 2014-15, India imported 14.5 million tonnes of edible oils valued at $10.5 billion, more than half its edible oil requirement.

Aside: Rapeseed (similar to mustard) grown in Canada is all GM modified.  For you health buffs, thats Canola (contraction of Canada and ola, meaning oil).  So not only is Canola from GM rapeseed it also contains glucosinolates responsible for metabolism disruption and erucic acid, which is damaging to cardiac muscle.   Maybe that why its called Canola and not rape-seed oil.

Back to India: How did India end importing half its edible oil. India was almost self-sufficient in edible oils by the mid-1990s, but by 2014 it was the world’s biggest importer of cooking oils. Under pressure from the World Bank, India began to reduce import tariffs on edible oils and imports then began to increase.

So this push for GM Mustard is little more than a smokescreen to divert attention from this reality, which has to date certainly benefited US agribusiness Cargill. What is more deceptive is that the genetically engineered mustard does not produce higher yields than non-GM mustard.

Patent Royalties,  sales of weedicide by Bayer to a 10.5 billion market is also the push for GM Mustard.  Deepak Pantel is not an independent scientist pushing GM Mustard but one salivating to collect patent royalties.

On a final note, Bayer and Monsanto have merged, DuPont and Dow are planning a merger and ChemChina is buying Syngenta.