In­dia Un­der Siege from Ge­net­i­cally Mod­i­fied Mus­tard

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The lat­est con­coc­tion from the GMO food mer­chants is yet another po­ten­tially med­i­cally-harm­ful form of mus­tard.

The coun­try it is be­ing foisted on is In­dia. There mus­tard is a ma­jor part of life and far more than the sim­ple condi­ment North Amer­i­cans are more fa­mil­iar with. It is used in a wide va­ri­ety of In­dian cuisines so that it is con­sumed by many mil­lions ev­ery sin­gle day and in sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties. It also is a key com­po­nent in an­i­mal feed and even soil restora­tion treat­ments.

The spe­cific crop item in­volved here is Dhara Mus­tard Hy­brid-11 (DMH-11), de­vel­oped at ge­netic lab­o­ra­to­ries by Delhi Univer­sity. As with other GMO prod­ucts, the busi­ness model that drove the de­vel­op­ment was one which has worked again and again for the in­dus­try. The Dhara Mus­tard was specif­i­cally en­gi­neered to grow well in spite of be­ing sat­u­rated with the her­bi­cide glu­fos­i­nate, known un­der the trade name Lib­erty. To fight off un­wanted growth from weeds and other un­wanted plants in the fields where the GM Mus­tard is grow­ing, the glu­fos­i­nate could freely flow onto the fields and the plants. The plants would then thrive like never be­fore, with­out hav­ing to fight the other grow­ing things that would or­di­nar­ily in­vade their space.

It also did not hurt that the GM Mus­tard seeds, like other GM crops world­wide, would be patented seed crops and there­fore ‘owned’ by their sell­ers. Which would mean that, like the sit­u­a­tion in fields with other of those GMO items, if GM Mus­tard seeds were to blow over into other fields where farm­ers had not pur­chased them, they could be found guilty of patent in­fringe­ment if any of those seeds grow.

It also did not hurt that the glu­fos­i­nate her­bi­cide is also a patented formula un­der that name Lib­erty, so that us­ing it would also mean a vir­tual mo­nop­oly of the her­bi­cide as well.

Also like the biotech world’s other GMO prod­ucts, the DMH-11 mus­tard seeds are be­ing touted as help­ing pro­vide much higher yields than con­ven­tional mus­tard seeds in use in the re­gion. Af­ter all, with all those other weeds out of the way there would be noth­ing to stop DMH-11 crops from pro­duc­ing at high rates.

Just like in the case of Mon­santo’s claims for higher yields, the truth is the ex­act op­po­site. As a coali­tion of farmer unions said in their let­ter to the In­dian gov­ern­ment protest­ing the pos­si­ble ap­proval of the DMH11 seeds for sale, “GM mus­tard yields are lower than many re­cent, pop­u­lar hy­brids and va­ri­eties. The test­ing has been rigged to have fa­vor­able re­sults.”

This time, un­like in the United States where govern-

ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives are firmly planted in the pock­ets of the GMO man­u­fac­tur­ers, here the Chief Min­is­ter of the State of Bi­har said that the “test­ing was de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing so as to ob­tain fa­vor­able re­sults for GM Mus­tard”.

The safety of the com­bi­na­tion of the DMH-11 seed and the glu­fos­i­nate her­bi­cide is also of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern as well. The rea­son here is that glu­fos­i­nate is very sim­i­lar to glyphosate, the her­bi­cide in Mon­santo’s Roundup brand which has been named as a cause of can­cer in nu­mer­ous coun­tries as well as the state of Cal­i­for­nia. Glyphosate has also been linked to in­creases in autism, breast can­cer, kid­ney dis­ease, liver dis­ease and more in a num­ber of stud­ies. It has also been shown to be present in the har­vested GMO crops that were ex­posed to the glyphosate her­bi­cides.

Glu­fos­i­nate and its me­tab­o­lite, MMPA-3 are neu­ro­tox­ins that dam­age the ner­vous sys­tem and can kill brain cells. The chem­i­cal stays ac­tive for ex­tended pe­ri­ods and mi­grates through the soil and can end up in wa­ter ta­bles. It neg­a­tively im­pacts soild mi­crobes and rad­i­cal al­ters soil bi­ol­ogy. It is toxic to wildlife as well as hu­mans.

Like glyphosate, glu­fos­i­nate can cause DNA dam­age and cre­ate new pathogen from soil mi­crobes, in in­sects, wildlife and in the hu­man body. It is es­sen­tially a bio-weapon that can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.

In an ear­lier time DDT spray­ing ended up con­tam­i­nat­ing birds and fish, and then were con­cen­trated as the lower forms of food were eaten by oth­ers fur­ther up the food chain. With the DMH-11 mus­tard seed, the mus­tard will make its way into soil treat­ments, an­i­mal feed and di­rect hu­man-con­sumed prod­uct as well. It will even af­fect honey, as bees come to the mus­tard plants and bring the con­tam­i­nated mus­tard pollen back to their hives. So, like it or not, even honey will be­gin to be pol­luted with GMO mus­tard and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing glu­fos­i­nate.

In the case of DMH-11, the con­se­quences of plant­ing are far worse than for other forms of GMO prod­ucts for other rea­sons. Be­cause of the na­ture of how mus­tard plants live, they can send pollen as much as 75 me­ters away from them. So once the crops be­gin to have any wide­spread adop­tion, very lit­tle could be done to stop it spread­ing fur­ther be­yond the crops’ orig­i­nal bor­ders.

This is a fur­ther shame in view of the pres­ence of over 10,000 sub-va­ri­eties of mus­tard through­out the na­tion of In­dia. If the DMH-11 mus­tard seed re­ally be­gins to take hold, those sub-va­ri­eties will slowly be­gin to dis­ap­pear. When bio­di­ver­sity de­creases any­where, it also makes the whole na­tion not only more bor­ing (be­cause of the lack of va­ri­eties avail­able for mus­tard seed), it also makes it more vul­ner­a­ble to the pres­ence of new weeds or other pests who will nat­u­rally evolve to sur­vive the pres­ence of glu­fos­i­nate spray­ing. That could lead to fur­ther spray­ing still to stop them, the need for fur­ther GM va­ri­eties to be de­vel­oped to re­spond to the evo­lu­tion of those pests, or the de­vel­op­ment of more dan­ger­ous pes­ti­cides. It could also mean that, if the new evolved pests take hold be­fore so­lu­tions are avail­able to deal with them, much dam­age could hap­pen far faster to all forms of this valu­able In­dian sta­ple.

Fur­ther harm still will hap­pen when In­dian’s now Gmo-pro­duced mus­tard prod­ucts are of­fered for sale be­yond the coun­try’s bor­ders. With many coun­tries ban­ning im­port of GMO crops now, it will cause se­ri­ous eco­nomic dam­age for the coun­try if it gets ap­proved.

Groups are cur­rently mo­bi­liz­ing to de­mand that the gov­ern­ment of In­dia not ap­prove DMH-11 for broad use. But with big agribusi­ness pour­ing money into the pro­pa­ganda and, the fraud­u­lent test­ing, and the politi­cians them­selves who they need for the ap­provals, this is go­ing to be one very tough fight.

Many GMOS are be­ing de­vel­oped and pushed onto the pub­lic not just to make money but also as a bio-weapon to re­duce pop­u­la­tion and In­dia has a big over-pop­u­la­tion prob­lem. Con­tam­i­nat­ing the food sup­ply, dam­ag­ing hu­man health and com­pro­mis­ing the soil may be seen by some sin­is­ter peo­ple as a po­ten­tially ef­fec­tive way to con­trol pop­u­la­tion.

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