Right-wing organisations, quick to brand opponents ‘anti-national’, have got a taste of their own medicine, thanks to the bitter battle over genetically modified 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.
Manch that is on the forefront of opposing globalisation and GM farming is affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
This has led backers of GM mustard to hit back. They say that getting “discredited” foreign scientists to criticise “Indian science” is “anti-national”. GM mustard is a publicly-funded project developed by scientists of Delhi University.
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 - the Sprague-Dawley rat - chosen were prone to developing cancers, the journal had said.
“I am happy that they (Swadeshi Jagran Manch) now think that there is wisdom abroad,” GM mustard developer Deepak Pental 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,” Bhagirath Choudhary, the director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre, a pro-GM outfit, said.
The Manch’s 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.”