by Dr Vandana Shiva, 17 September 2016
Dr Vandana Shiva was appointed by the UN to an expert group to create the Biosafety Framework to implement art 19.3 of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). This framework evolved into the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.Dr Shiva has also served on the National Expert Group which drafted India’s National Biodiversity Act, and the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act.
Mustard is the colour of our spring — basant. It is the flavor, and aroma, of our foods. It is a warm massage for a baby, and the glow of our oil-lamps on Diwali. Mustard has been central to the cultural and food identity of the diverse cultures that make India. India’s Mustard cultures are being threatened, by MOBAY (Monsanto+Bayer).
GMO mustard — being pushed on India through a mega scientific fraud, only to open the doors for Bayer-Monsanto (MOBAY during the WorldWars) — is set to invade our ecosystems and farms, destroy our bio-diversity and food cultures, and undermine our Bio-safety & food sovereignty.
The Bio-safety assessment is a major scientific fraud on India and Indians
1. Mustard is a special in India’s Food Culture. Western Bias in saying it is less desir-able for human consumption
The assessment of Food and Environmental Safety of GMO Mustard is clearly written by foreign lobby groups of the Bio Tech Industry. Mustard is our preferred oil in many regions of India. The seeds are used for seasoning across India. We eat the Greens as “Sarson ka Saag”.
We love the flavour and aroma of our mustard. In the west, they removed the flavour and aroma to make canola. The Assessment, written with a western bias, actually states:
“Indian Mustard is considered less desirable for human consumption, specially in Western Countries “ pg 58
But we are Indians, we eat Indian mustard — rai, sarson, kaduku, mohari, shor-say — not some washed-out-canola imitation. We are not the Wild-West — we are where the West looks, for orientation.
2. Assessment is for Commercialisation, not merely Environmental Release for Field Trials
The GMO mustard is the first food crop being proposed for commercialisation. Maliciously, the application for commercialisation is being camouflaged as “environmental release”.The environmental release should have occurred for the open field field trials.
3. Being promoted as a public sector “innovation”
Pental’s GM Mustard is based on Bayer’s barnase/barstar/gene system to create male-sterile plants, and a bar-gene for glufosinate resistance. In 2002, Pro-Agro’s (Bayer) application for approval of commercial planting of GM mustard based on the same system was turned down.
4. Non-assessment based on non-studies
The Assessment is not a Food Safety or Environmental Safety study of the GMO mustard. It is a non-sensical-non-study, which avoids any real assessment of safety. Mustard is a food for humans and animals. Yet no feeding trials were done.
It is clearly stated that “No feeding studies are required for granting environmental release” pg 70. And even though the oilcake is fed to cows, the assessment states “No livestock feeding studies are recommended” . Pg 66. Without feeding trials, there is no assessment of safety. The claim of safety without trials is unscientific. The assessment basically states it’s own redundancy when it comes to bio safety protocols.
Not having carried out any feeding trials, the assessment concludes — without any scientific basis — that GMO mustard does “not pose any risk of causing any adverse effects on human and animal health and safety “ pg 74. Or, they have no clue, because observation and inference were “not recommended”.
5. Multiple components of trans-gene not tested
The GMO mustard is based on multiple genetic trans-formations, and introduction of genes from un-related organisms. These include the barnase gene for male sterility, bar-star gene, bar gene for herbicide resistance to Glufosinate (Basta, Bayer’s herbicide analogous to Monsanto’s Glyphosate), TA29 for regulator, CaMV 35S, Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (as viral promoter), AMV, Alfa-alfa Mosaic Virus (as viral promoter), and Agrobacterium tumefacians as Terminators. Pg 40
This gene construct, with all its components has not been assessed.
Therefore, the assessment is a non-assessment.
6. Biological expression and functions are what matters is living systems, not chemical composition alone
The Assessment ignores Biological Safety. It is stated that “hybrid DMH-11 (GMO Mustard ) is very similar, in its composition, to the commercially cultivated varieties in India which have a history of safe use” pg 61. The safety of our non GMO mustard cannot be the basis of assuming safety of Bayer’s GMO mustard. “Very similar” still means different, especially if it is being claimed as a “novel”, “innovative” “product”. Composition is not the basis of safety. The rendered meat feed of dead cows, fed to cows during the “Mad Cow Epidemic in the U.K.”, was “compositionally equivalent “ to normal feed, but it drove the cows “mad”.
Research showed that the normal cows, and the mad cows, had the same protein, but in the Mad-Cows, it was a deformed protein — “prion”. While the normal protein was safe, the compositionally-equivalent but structurally-different “prion” became a self-infective “agent”.
Water is life, H2O is a symbol, not the same. Fabricated “substantial equivalence” is a guarantee for health hazards, not a guarantee for safety. It encodes a “don’t look, don’t see” policy, and declares ignorance of Biosafety issues as proof of safety. http://www.cdc.gov/prions/bse/
The false assumption that “Compositional and Agronomic considerations are robust and reliable” pg 70 and these being the only considerations, is assessing Bio-safety is scientific-ally false. The systematic under-mining of India’s bio-safety, in contempt of her Sovereign Laws, is Bio-Terrorism.
7. Barnase, Barstar, Bar Genes — not tested for safety in expression, in GMO mustard
The Assessment admits that the barstar protein is found in leaves, stem and roots of the GMO Mustard. Barnase is found in vegetative tissues of GMO mustard. The Bar protein is found in leaves, oil and oil-seeds of GMO mustard.pg 63
These proteins are not present in the traditional mustard varieties. However, the plant (as food) has not been assessed for safety, in its expression of the “layered” Bar “Trans Gene”, that has been implanted in GMO mustard. What is tested, is surro-gate proteins expressed in E Coli Bacteria. Isolated proteins expressed in bacteria are not equi-valent to transgenes expressed in plants, which are much more complex organisms. Instead of testing for difference, a false assertion is dictated — that the two are equivalent.
The statement casually states on pg 63 “The data showed that the Barnase expression levels are below the detection level and yet the expression level is sufficient to create male sterility trait”. It is expression of the trait that makes the difference in living systems, in the real world, and it is this trait that needs to be assessed in transgenic mustard as food .
Barnase is an enzyme that breaks down RNA indiscriminately, and known to be an extremely potent cell poison. Traces of barnase are toxic to the rat kidney  and to human cell lines .
Ilinskaya O and Vamvakas S. Nephrotic effect of bacterial ribonucleases in the isolated and perfused rat kidney. Toxicology 1997, 120, 55–63.
Prior T, Kunwar S and Pastan I. Studies on the activity of barnase toxins in vitro and in vivo. Biocong Chem 1996, 7,23–9.
Barnase is inhibited by barstar. Both are produced by a soil bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefaciens (Bt = Bacillus thuringiensis). In the soil bacteria, they are bound, so barnase can do no harm. In the plant,when it is secreted from the cell, it is no longer bound and is thus harmful to other cells. This harm has not been scientifically assessed.
8. Viral promoters- such as Cauliflower Mosaic Virus and Alfalfa Mosaic Virus — not tested at all
There is no test done on the safety of viral promoters. The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus is notoriously unstable.
Ho MW, Ryan A and Cummins J. Cauliflower mosaic viral promoter — a recipe for disaster? Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 1999, 11, 194–7.
A classic example of how DNA can still reveal unexpected functions decades after discovery is the CaMV 35S promoter, a DNA sequence used in commercialised GMO plants for almost twenty years. The CaMV 35S DNA is described in every application for commercial use as a simple DNA “promoter” (an “on” switch for gene expression).
In 1999, however, the CaMV 35S “promoter” was found to encode a recombinational hotspot (Kohli et al., 1999). In 2011 it was found to produce massive quantities of small RNAs. These RNAs probably function as decoys to neutralise the plant immune system (Blevins et al., 2011). One year later still, regulators found it to contain an overlapping viral gene whose functions are still being elucidated (Podevin and du Jardin 2012)
Blevins, Todd, Rajendran Rajeswaran, Michael Aregger, Basanta K. Borah, Mikhail Schepetilnikov, Loïc Baerlocher, Laurent Farinelli, Frederick Meins Jr, Thomas Hohn and Mikhail M. Pooggin (2011) Massive production of small RNAs from a non-coding region of Cauliflower mosaic virus in plant defense and viral counter-defense. Nucleic Acids Research 39: 5003–5014.
Podevin N and du Jardin P (2012) Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in plant transformation vectors used and the viral gene VI in transgenic plants. GM Crops and Food 3: 1–5.
9. Pental, a convicted liar, has repeatedly misled the public, by saying that the GMO Mustard is not herbicide resistant
This is a scientific fraud on the nation with extremely high costs.
Pental’s lie is evident on pg 86 of the assessment report ,where it is clearly stated that plants were sprayed with Basta herbicide and checked for resistance. The GMO mustard is based on Bayer’s Patented Barnase-barstar-bargene system. Its only use, is to make the plant resistant to Bayer’s proprietary Glufosinate-based herbicide — BASTA.
Pental is a trojan horse, for Bayers’ entry (as Monsanto exits) into India, with GMO mustard.
Bayer has recently announced acquisition of MonsantoCo. We must avoid the crisis our cotton farmers are facing with the monopoly of BTCotton in the cotton seed sector. With Mustard in Bayer-Monsanto hands, the crisis will be repeated in Mustard, with higher cost to Indians.
10. Emergence of SuperWeeds (because of Herbicide Resistant crops) is the most significant safety aspect of Herbicide Resistant crops
This risk is not addressed at all.
Half the farm lands of U.S.A. are overtaken by SuperWeeds, that have become resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup. (Monsanto’s RoundUp, and Bayer’s Basta, are analogs)
Unscientifically, Pental (and the assessment group) have reduced the problem of SuperWeeds to “weediness” of mustard, and carried out scientifically-ir-relevant tests — on biomass production, seed germination, seedling vigour etc pg 75, and declared the Genetically Engineered lines cannot become invasive in the form of a weed.pg 76. They totally bypass the emergence of SuperWeeds due to the evolutionary-pressure on other plants, exerted by the herbicide.
11. Unscientific claim of “No Destruction of Bio Diversity”
GMO-Mustard, with a Herbicide Resistant Trait, will displace Native Mustard, just like GMO-Cotton displaced Desi-Cotton. Further, mustard is grown as a mixture, with chana and wheat. Spraying Basta will destroy the biodiversity of associated crops.
The un-scientific assessment claims “The biodiversity loss due to GM mustard cultivation is only possible if it is able to germinate in a wide range of environmental conditions” pg 77
If GMO mustard is commercialised, it will be grown in a wide rage of conditions, as mustard is grown, and will displace biodiversity
The Technical Expert Group to the Supreme Court, has clearly stated that no herbicide resistant crop should be introduced in India, because our farmers are small and bio-diverse, and herbicide resistant crops will both destroy biodiversity, as well as the food and nutritional security of our nation.
12. Anti-National and Un-scientific claim — that India is not a centre of diversity of mustard
On pg 82 , the assessment report blatantly lies, and states, that India is not a centre of diversity of mustard.
13. Un-scientific claim — that mustard is self pollinating
According to Pental & Co., B. juncea is a predominantly self-pollinating crop ; but this is a lie, only the commercial varieties have been in-bred, from originally freely out-breeding varieties. Native Mustard varieties are not in-bred.
The biology of Brassica juncea (canola/mustard) Canadian Food Inspection Agency, accessed 11 August 2015,
14. Un-scientific claim that GMO-Mustard will not pollute and genetically contaminate non GMO mustard
Genetic contami-nation, by GMO Canola is very wide-spread. After contaminating farmers crops, Monsanto sues them, as in the case of Percy Schmeiser in Canada, and Steve Marsh in Australia. Genetic contamin-ation of Native Mustard by GMO-Mustard is inevitable (only if allowed), given our small farms.
Pental-Mustard, and the Bio-safety Assessment, totally fabricate claims, that their is no risk of genetic contami-nation and genetic pollution.
Mustard is cultivated every-where in North India. It is therefore un-scientific to claim that “Escape of strains of GE mustard to related Brassica sp may occur only if conventional crop is present in receiving environment where GE mustard is cultivated” pg 82. Native Mustard is already every-where mustard can grow, cultivation of Pental-Mustard will contaminate Native Mustard any-where it is released.
The un-scientific claims continue on pg 86 “in farmers field one of the concerns is that crossing could occur between infraspecific varieties growing in adjusting fields. In case of GM mustard the crossing with neighbouring mustard would be similar with other non GM varieties and no further effects are expected due to transgress”.
However the trans-genes contain genes for male-sterility, viral promoters and herbicide-resistance. These genes do not exist in Non-GMO-Mustard.
on pg 86, the Assessment falsely claims that pollen cannot travel more than 20ft when mustard pollination studies shows that pollination by herbicide resistant brassica contaminated 67% farms upto 3 km .. Pental-margin (of error) 49200%.
15. Un-scientific claim that GMO-Mustard has no impact of Soil bio-diversity and soil organisms
The Assessment un-scientifically claims, that since the genes are taken from a specific soil organism, from a sample of soil, there is no impact on any soil, anywhere.
Pg 90 “Even if the functional barnase gene enters the soil it will not effect microbial community abundance, diversity and functionality as the proteins expressed by the GE mustard are expected to be already widely present in nature and their presence in GE mustard is not expected to present any new toxicity risks to soil micro organisms in these environments”
Science is not based on false assumptions and false projections, but tests, experiments, and thorough verification.
Firstly, the assumption that, because the genes are taken from soil organisms they are safe for soil is false because in the soil bacteria barnase and barstar are in a bound state, in GMO-Mustard they are not
Secondly, on the assumption: that genes taken from soil organisms, and introduced into un-related species, in GMOs, means that GMOs have no impact on soils; is proven false by studies of Bt-Cotton.
Bt genes are also taken from soil organisms of the same group, and Bt-Cotton in Vidharba has decimated the population of beneficial soil organisms.
A detailed survey was carried out in five Vidharbha districts (Akola, Bhandara, Buldhana, Chandrapur and Garchiroli) from 10 different villages of each district of Bt cotton growing areas for last 10–12 years. A comparison was made with collecting the samples from other cultivar (non — Bt) and control plots of the same areas. The results in brief of the parameters studied so far were presented below:
Acid Phosphatase enzymes decreased by upto 40%
Alkaline Phosphatase enzymes decreased 44%
Total microbial population decreased by 53%
Total actinomycetes bacterial(actinobacteria) activity in the soil decreased by 53%
Fungi population decreased by 49%
Bacterial population decreased by 54%
16. No assessment of effects on Pollinators and Bees
There is no assessment of the impact of GMO-Mustard, on pollinators and bees. Pollinators contribute one third, to the food we eat. Mustard is an extremely important crop for pollinators.
Bt-Cotton has wiped out pollinators in Vidharba. In the United States, RoundUp-Ready crops have destroyed 90% of the monarch butterfly population. Bt-Corn was found to destroy the larvae of Monarch Butterflies.
No study has been done on the impact of Herbicide Resistance, and use of herbicides in GM-Mustard, nor of the Barnase, Barstar, Bar genes, that are expressed in the GMO-Mustard.
Bayer’s neonicotinoids are already implicated in the destruction of bees and pollinators .
Instead of stopping its poisons, Bayer is suing Europe like Monsanto is sueing the Competition Commission, and the Government in I india in the Bt cotton case.https://actions.sumofus.org/a/bayer-bees-lawsuit
Bayer -Monsanto have a record of crimes against nature and farmers . They should not be given a green signal to spread their crimes against bees and the Indian civilisation through GMO mustard.
The Assessment un-scientifically, and casually, states “The exposure of pollinating insects to these proteins is likely to be negligible” pg 96
This is a mockery, a caricature of science, total scientific-ignorance and ass-umption, not scientific evidence of safety.
17. No assessment of use of Glufosinate with Glufosinate Resistant GMO-Mustard
Although banned in India, Bayer finds ways to sell glufosinate illegally to Assam’s tea gardens and the apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh. Sales agents show the sale of glufosinate under the “others” category to avoid regulation. These chemicals are finding their way into the bodies of our children without government approval. Essentially, all key patents related to the bar gene are held by Bayer Crop Science, which acquired Aventis Cropscience, which itself was created out of the genetic engineering divisions of Schering, Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst. Then Bayer acquired Plant Genetic Systems, and entered into cooperation agreement with Evogene, which has patents on genome mapping.
18. No Transparency about IPRs on the “Technology”
Before any approval is granted to genetically-engineered mustard, the issue of limits to patentability needs to be resolved on the basis of Indian laws, and patents on plants and seeds and methods of agriculture must not be allowed. Deepak Pental, a retired professor and GM-Operative, will not commercialise GM mustard seed. His officers at Bayer/Monsanto/MoBay will. Now that Bayer and Monsanto have merged, the risks of control on our food systems and destruction of seed sovereignty and food sovereignty are very high .
19. No Socio Economic Assessment
Given our experience with GMO cotton, the environment and forests ministry is considering the option of putting in place guidelines for socio-economic assessment to judge proposed GM varieties on the basis of factors such as the economy, health, environment, society and culture.
At the core of socio-economic assessment is the issue of monopolies and cartels, and their impact on small farmers. Even though patents on seeds are not allowed, for more than a decade and a half Monsanto has extracted illegal royalties from Indian farmers, trapping them in debt, and triggering an epidemic of farmers’ suicides.
20. No Assessment of Bio-diverse outputs of mixtures of Mustard with Chana and Wheat
All studies show that mixtures produce more per acre. The land equivalent ratio of mustard+chickpea, is 1.41. That means that, we can grow 41% more food through bio-diversity and mixtures, than through mono-cropping . Herbicide resistant GMO-Mustard is a recipe for hunger, and increased imports of pulses because it will not allow mixtures. While the justification is given as increased production and lower imports, the impact will be dia-metrically opposite.
The only accurate conclusions, that can be drawn from the Assessment Report, are the Scientific Fraud that is being committed, and the endangering of India’s bio-safety, and Native Mustard varieties. Owing to Pental &Co.’s crystal clear malice, the use of Delhi University funding in the “technology-transfer” and “commercialisation” of proprietary foreign-funded bio-terrorism must be investigated thoroughly.
For all the above reasons, GMO-Mustard should not be given commercial approval, and should not be allowed in cultivation.