Anti-GM activists today asked Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan to reject the application seeking commercialisation of genetically-modified mustard, saying there is no "scientific, ethical and socio-economic" justification for it. "We urge you to reject this application in toto, keeping in mind the present and future interest of our nation," the 'Coalition for a GM-Free India' said in the letter. "There is no scientific, ethical and socio-economic justification for this mustard.
From all available information, it is clear that this GM mustard is neither safe, nor beneficial nor needed," the letter said. India's GM crop regulator had recently recommended the commercial use of genetically-modified mustard in a submission to the environment ministry. It is now upto the environment minister to give his approval. The Coalition also asked the minister to take up "meaningful and serious" consultation processes on the matter, by having widespread consultations with the public and not just a set of "handpicked stakeholders". The Coalition asked the minister to take a "re-look" at the BJP's manifesto commitments and stick to the promises made in it. "We ask you to get state government views and independent experts' analyses of full biosafety data before you take a final decision," it said. Noting that it had made a presentation to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the Coalition said that despite providing valuable scientific evidence and arguments to the regulators, its queries were "unanswered" to this day. "The regulators chose to function in a biased, opaque and unscientific manner in this matter," it said in the letter. The Coalition had now sought time from the minister to make a presentation "to bring you the truth of GM mustard". "We are convinced that the proponents, crop developers and the regulators will not bring such material to you nor share with you how fraudulent the testing, appraisal and clearance processes were," they said. 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. The 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 Coalition said they had also interacted with the late Anil Madhav Dave on this matter and the former minister was of the view that India needs a cohesive policy on the matter and that there is no need for this controversy to erupt crop by crop. Referring to reports that Dave had hinted at holding consultations on the matter, the Coalition although welcoming it, also said that consultative processes are meaningful only if data is shared in the public domain first and responses to various valid questions raised so far are answered with scientific evidence.