`We need a science-based debate'
Instead of learning a lesson from the Bt cotton debacle, a strong lobby is trying to get the prime minister to approve GM mustard lesson from the Bt cotton debacle, a strong lobby is trying, through a section of the English media, to get the prime minister to brush aside all pointers to the false claims, and get approval for a kjunky GM mustard variety, DMH-11. Although developed by a team of scientists at the Delhi University, there is nothing swadeshi about it. The Delhi University research is actually a Trojan horse for the multinational, Bayer, which will be the only beneficiary with its sale of herbicides expected to increase manifold. The transgenic variety is being pushed on the grounds that the country needs to cut down on its 66,000-crore import bill for edible oils, and, therefore, a khighyieldingy mustard variety will help raise production and reduce edible oil imports.
These claims are unfounded. Firstly, edible oil imports are not because of a shortfall in domestic production. In 1993-94, India was almost self-sufficient. The import surge is the outcome of a deliberate reduction in import tariffs over the years bringing it to almost zero. Secondly, there are five existing hybrid varieties that outperform the DMH-11 variety in yield. But the data, for some unknown reason, has not been considered by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). In short, GM mustard provides no additional benefit. And finally, I don't know why agricultural scientists as well as the GEAC are avoiding a ksciencebasedy public discussion about the need and relevance for such a risky and unwanted technology. You only avoid a public debate when you have something to hide.
The author is a food and agriculture policy analyst conducted in 2006 by the Cornell University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that Chinese farmers had to use 20 times more pesticides in just seven years of the introduction of Bt cotton. kThe study found that by the third year(s), farmers who had planted Bt cotton cut pesticide use by more than 70 per cent and earned 36 per cent higher than farmers planting conventional cotton. By 2004, however, they had to spray just as much pesticides as conventional farmers, which resulted in a net average income of 8 per cent less than conventional cotton farmers because Bt seeds cost three times more than conventional seeds.y (People's Daily, July 26, 2016)
Projected as a ksilver bullety for Chinese small cotton farmers, the magic bullet had bitten the dust. I recall at a meeting of the International Committee on Ethics in Globalisation, Per PinstrupAnderson, former director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute and a strong votary of GM crops, bemoaned the collapse of Bt cotton in China.
In 2015, when the whitefly insect ravaged the standing Bt cotton crop in Punjab, Haryana and western Rajasthan, causing farmer suicides, and violent protests, I thought it was time to pull down the curtains on a questionable technology. K R Kranthi, director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, had himself acknowledged: kNo significant yield advantage has been observed between 2004 and 2011 when area under Bt cotton increased from 5.4 to 96 per cent.y
But the drum beaters are at work. And this time, more aggressively. Without drawing any