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Govt puts GM mustard approval on hold

Cotton only GM crop allowed to be sold, cultivated in India

Krishna N Das  |  New Delhi 

GM mustard
Genetically modified food has been opposed by activists and politicians in India due to fears that it could compromise food safety and biodiversity | Photo: Reuters

The government has frozen requests to commercially release a locally developed genetically modified mustard, an Ministry document released on Tuesday showed, amid stiff opposition to lab-altered food from domestic activists and politicians. 

The mustard variety would have been the first transgenic to be allowed for commercial cultivation. But the ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has deferred approval despite a panel the ministry supervises giving the genetically modified (GM) mustard technical clearance last year. 

“Subsequent to receipt of various representations from different stakeholders, matters related to environmental release of transgenic mustard are kept pending for further review," the said in minutes of a meeting released on the ministry’s website marked: “Confidential and restricted circulation”.

is the only currently allowed to be sold in the world’s second most populous country where arable land is shrinking. US Company Monsanto Co dominates the seed market in India, and often faces resistance from local companies over its position. 

The ministry told parliament on July 31 that had been recommended by to it for "consideration for environmental release and cultivation”. An ministry spokesman directed Reuters to head Amita Prasad, whose office said she was not available.

Another official named on the ministry's website, Madhumita Biswas, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The decision on the mustard represents a setback for Deepak Pental and his colleagues at the Delhi University, who worked on developing and testing the variety for years. Pental, who earlier acknowledged that getting a go-ahead for would be difficult, declined to comment on Tuesday. 

has been opposed by activists and politicians in India due to fears that it could compromise food safety and biodiversity. Some experts have also questioned claims that are more productive than normal varieties.  Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — Hindi for “national volunteer organization” and the ideological parent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party - also opposes and instead wants to promote local varieties.

Reuters

First Published: Wed, October 25 2017. 03:04 IST
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