In a letter addressed to Mr. Anil Dave, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate, Advocate Prashant Bhushan has demanded to withhold the commercial release of GM Mustard, which was approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) on Thursday.
In the letter, Mr. Bhushan has “expressed great disquiet and anxiety at the opaque and unscientific regulatory oversight of this GM mustard”. Therefore, demanding that the plan of commercialization be nipped in the bud, the letter states, “The issue also is that with GMO contamination, our mustard will be changed at the molecular level. Any toxicity that there is will remain in perpetuity. Are we prepared to be the agents for such monumental risk and put India and its people in jeopardy without any recourse and remedy? For these reasons among others, and there are decidedly ‘others’, I would urge you on behalf of our Nation not to endorse this outrageous and antinational approval, but reject it in the public interest. You will be doing India a noble service in posterity.”
He thereafter, enlists three grounds for withholding the approval. First, he relies on the assurance given by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, in October, 2016 that the Union of India will not release DMH 11 “without the prior approval of the Supreme Court”.
Second, he highlights the issue of the biosafety of HT Mustard DMH 11, which, he says, is “critical for India’s agriculture in mustard, its food safety (both as a vegetable and seed oil), and furthermore, and of outstanding importance, the certain contamination that will occur of India’s mustard germplasm.”
Third, he emphasizes on the “lessons of history of GMO regulation in India”, averring that it is marred by “the most serious conflicts of interest and lack of expertise”.
“For this reason, self-assessed safety dossiers by crop developers are kept secret by our Regulators and governing Ministries,” he further points out, highlighting the fact that the GM mustard dossier has also remained unpublished.
The letter goes on to rely on certain statements made by the Centre and the GEAC in a reply affidavit filed before the Apex Court. For instance, the Centre had, in the affidavit, admitted that there has been no claim that DMH 11 out-performs Non-GMO hybrids.
“Therefore, we draw the conclusion that the stated regulatory intent is to deregulate HT DMH 11 as a policy agenda based on no science, and to convert India’s mustard agriculture, in a massive and dangerous experiment, to (GM) HT hybrid mustard, (variants of DMH 11),” the letter thereby states.
Read the Letter here.