Right-wing outfits, which are quick to brand opponents ‘anti-national’, have got a taste of their own medicine, thanks to the bitter battle over genetically-modified (GM) mustard.
On Friday, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch will launch a broadside on GM mustard by hosting Gilles-Eric Seralini, a well-known French critic of GM crops who became controversial after a scientific journal pulped his study linking GM herbicide-tolerant maize and cancer in rats.
This has led backers of GM mustard to hit back. They say getting “discredited” foreign scientists to criticise “Indian science” is “anti-national”. GM mustard is a publicly funded project developed by Delhi University scientists.
Seralini’s 2012 study had caused a global storm when it was published by Elsevier. However, the publisher retracted Seralini’s study saying it was “inconclusive”.
The number of rats used in the study was too small and the rat species chosen — the Sprague-Dawley rat — were prone to developing cancers, the journal had said.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, on the forefront of opposing globalisation and GM farming, is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling BJP.
GM mustard developer Deepak Pantel said, “I am happy that they (Swadeshi Jagran Manch) now think that there is wisdom abroad.”
Bhagirath Choudhary, director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre — a pro-GM outfit — said, “(It is) ironic that the manch is relying on a controversial videshi (foreign) scientist known for his anti-biotech crusade to derail a Make in India product developed by Delhi University.”
Manch leader Ashwini Mahajan, however, said it was a fallacy to call GM mustard a “swadeshi (homegrown) product”. “We have to see who the beneficiary will be. In this case, it will be Bayer and the herbicides they make.”