Meetings between civil society members opposing genetically-modified crops and the government ended on another harsh note over GM mustard on Monday, with the former walking out of a consultative meeting with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
The group of activists, scientists, farmers and others, under the Coalition For A GM-Free India, however, have written a letter to Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, demanding that the government reject the proposal for commercialisation.
While a member of the GEAC said no decision had been taken on mustard yet, the bio-safety data of the crop continues to be studied by the committee.
Meanwhile, activists alleged that the group of scientists, led by the former Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, Deepak Pental, had “fudged” data to inflate the productivity of their GM mustard by at least 7.5 per cent. The application for the crop has claimed that the genetically altered variety of the oil crop gave at least 25 per cent more yield.
In a letter, the Alliance said: “Environmental safety testing, bypassing rigorous agronomic evaluation, cannot be considered as a valid basis for yield claims related to DMH-11, which is the main basis for the introduction of this GMO. We further show that the 28.4 per cent higher yield is also miscalculated by presenting a value derived from average of averages. We also show that results of field data as reported by DRMR has been presented with changed values when submitted to GEAC (increased by 15.3 per cent), for BRL I 2nd year data (2011-12) from two locations where trials took place. These two manipulations (average of averages and changed values) together have notched up the so-called yield benefit of DMH-11 by around 7.5 per cent, within the wrong protocols used.”
Kavitha Kuruganthi, Convenor of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, told reporters that the data had been manipulated at two levels – one by comparing the new GM crop to a low-yield variety that was developed 30 years ago and is not used as a “check” since 2006; and second, by calculating average of average figures on already inadequate tests that allegedly inflated the productivity figures.
She said the GM crop should have been tested against hybrid varieties for adequate assessment.