Activists opposed to genetically modified (GM) mustard today expressed shock at the sudden demise of Environment Minister Anil Dave, who had met them yesterday to hear their concerns about the issue. The activists, who had yesterday organised a protest outside the Environment Ministry, demanding an immediate rollback of the approval for commercial use of GM mustard, recalled, how their issue was given a "patient, polite and attentive hearing" by Dave. They also recalled how, during the protest yesterday, they had urged the minister to come down and meet them to hear their concerns on a couple of occasions and how the minister had sent back the message saying he was unable to come down as he was not well. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a body of the ministry that evaluates genetically modified crops, had on May 11 recommended the commercial use of GM mustard. It was now left to Dave to take a final call on the issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who condoled the death of Dave, also tweeted that he was with the Environment Minister till late last evening, discussing key policy issues. "We are deeply shocked and saddened by Dave's demise. We met him only yesterday in relation to GM mustard, to share our concerns and evidence.
He gave us a patient, polite and attentive hearing. "He promised that he will bring up the matter in the right forum before any decision is taken. His commitment to environmental sustainability was apparent, in past interactions too, on climate change and natural farming," Kavita Kuruganti, from the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), told PTI. She said that activists like her, were deeply saddened by the news and hope that Dave's commitment to sustainability would "guide the Ministry in upholding its mandate". 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, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website. Dave was to take the final call on the approval of GM mustard in a few days. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) general secretary Yudhvir Singh who had also met Dave yesterday told PTI that on both occasions yesterday, the chit sent to them was that he (Dave) was unwell which is why he could not come downstairs. "It is a very sad news. After a while we went inside to meet him. We were almost assured that he would do everything possible from his side. Loss of such a personality is not only a loss for farmers but for the aam aadmi as well," he said.
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