GM (genetically-modified) mustard is touted as something that is indispensable to raising productivity, especially in the face of climate change. However, cultivating GM mustard is not the only way to achieve this. There are alternatives that are both ecologically and economically beneficial. One of them is the organic and nursery-type-spacing technique of SRI that is, System of Root Intensification. This is being practised in Odisha, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, where it is giving an average mustard yield of 31 quintals per hectare and a maximum of 57 quintals per hectare, all of that is estimated to have the capacity to substitute the current Rs 70,000 crore rapeseed-mustard imports per year.
When there are such successful eco-friendly alternatives, why is GM mustard, which is monocultural, non-renewable (by virtue of being based on a terminator technology) and herbicide-tolerant, being pushed. The so-called field trials which the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has decided to go for before approving GM mustard, will make no difference to the toxic nature of a GM crop. Ideally, as environmentalists have been suggesting, it is essential to do safety trials for a moratorium period of minimum 10 years. In any case, contrary to the claims that the Bt toxin in GM foods should not be a matter of concern as it “degrades” in the human body, it is found to survive in the blood of pregnant women and foetuses. Likewise, herbicides like Roundup are linked to the emergence of superweeds and autism in USA.
C V Krishna Manoj Hyderabad
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