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GM Mustard Gets Regulator Nod Amid Opposition from RSS-affiliate

India's GM crop regulator has recommended the commercial use of genetically modified mustard in a submission to the environment ministry amid opposition by anti-GM groups, including RSS-affiliated bodies.


Updated:May 12, 2017, 10:55 AM IST
GM Mustard Gets Regulator Nod Amid Opposition from RSS-affiliate
Representative image
New Delhi: The regulator for genetically modified crops has given the green signal for commercial cultivation of GM mustard in the country.

In a submission to the Environment Ministry, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has given a “positive recommendation but with certain conditions”, PTI reported.

With the GEAC nod, the GM mustard, developed by the Delhi University, gets closer to becoming India’s first edible GM crop.

The ball now lies in the Environment Ministry’s court which will take the final call.

Several groups are opposing the GEAC's decision. RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) criticised the move saying allowing the commercial use of GM mustard would impact allied agri-activities.

Some anti-GM activists asserted that in okaying the commercial use of GM mustard, the GEAC has yet again proven to be “unscientific and uncaring” to the health of citizens.

They said Environment Minister Anil Madhav should uphold BJP’s manifesto promise that GM foods will not be allowed and reject the GM mustard just like the Bt brinjal variety was rejected seven years ago.

The GEAC, which is under the Environment Ministry, on Thursday reviewed a report of a sub-committee constituted to look into the safety angle of the commercial roll-out of GM mustard. It has also put a number of conditions while recommending its commercial use.

“The agenda of GM mustard came up in a meeting of the GEAC. It has given a positive recommendation. It has recommended the approval of GM mustard for commercial release,” a ministry official was quoted as saying by PTI.

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.

The environment ministry had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website.

The application was submitted in 2015 after which several rounds of meeting were held by the GEAC. The sub-committee also convened meetings with experts.

The GEAC also heard the views of various NGOs not in favour of giving an approval to GM crops.

An anti-GM group had earlier alleged that sub-committee, did not have any health expert and three of its members have conflict of interest.

Coalition for a GM-Free India had questioned whether the risk assessment report given by the sub-committee, which has claimed that the hybrid does not pose any risk to biodiversity or agro-ecosystem, was even "reliable and scientific" as it had no health experts in it.

Thursday’s decision, which many of the anti-GM activists were unaware of, got sharp reactions from Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM). “We are against the commercial use of any genetically modified crops, including the GM mustard. And we will request that the government should not allow its commercial cultivation,” SJM co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said.

The productivity of existing desi varieties are higher than this newly developed GM mustard, Mahajan claimed.

Environment activist Vandana Shiva had also opposed GM mustard earlier, saying it is illegal and developers have done fraud science.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) general secretary Yudhvir Singh also said the GM mustard technology would not lead to increase in productivity but monopolise the seed market.

(With PTI inputs)
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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