GM mustard inches closer to commercial release

Expert committee could recommend it as soon as September

A farmer casts urea on her mustard field in Allahabad

A farmer casts urea on her mustard field in Allahabad

New Delhi
The green nod for commercially cultivating genetically-modified (GM) mustard has reached the penultimate stage, with a technical sub-committee of the Union environment ministry giving a positive report on it. The nod from the statutory Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the government could come as soon as September.

If the GEAC does recommend the cultivation of the first GM food crop to be grown in the country in the September meeting, as sources said was likely, it would require only a political approval from the environment minister for the crop to be commercially released.

Business Standard spoke to two members of the GEAC, one of whom is also a member of the technical subcommittee, formed particularly to assess the biosafety of the crop,  and two officials in the environment ministry for the story.

None of them were willing to put a time frame to when the political decision at the level of the minister would be taken but one of them said, “Unlike earlier, we are moving forward on it for sure. There were some small issues left to be resolved in the last meeting.” A release from the Union environment ministry on Thursday said, “No final decision has been taken yet on the issue. The GEAC, in a meeting held on August 11, 2016, examined the safety document prepared by the subcommittee of the GEAC. The GEAC has appraised the document and it will be put up on its website, inviting comments from the public.”

A GEAC member said, “The proposal is to release the two GM parental seeds of mustard and their hybrid variety called the DMH-11. We could consider a controlled release of the parental lines at the first stage and the hybrid at a later stage.”

GM mustard inches closer to commercial release
Business Standard confirmed that the proposal was for release of three kinds of GM mustard seeds but could not verify if either the technical subcommittee had recommended this two-stage partial release of GM mustard or if the GEAC had formally considered this in its August meeting. The minutes of the August meeting have not yet been released to the public by the environment ministry.

When asked if the experts had considered larger questions raised about labelling and productivity claims of GM mustard, the member said, “The subcommittee was set up to look at the biosafety aspect of the proposed varieties.”  

Environmentalists opposing the commercial release of GM mustard varieties recently wrote to the government claiming release of the parental lines (and not the hybrid variety) would not mitigate the risks. The Coalition for a GM Free India wrote, “The parental lines are also Herbicide Tolerant (HT). They will generate 100 per cent HT hybrids.” Adding, “Policy directives should be applied on whether we can allow GM HT crops to come into India — that too as a backdoor entry, when there are huge health, environmental and socio-economic implications and when this matter is sub judice.” It also noted the intellectual property rights and agreements involving the three varieties up for approval had not been revealed, even though there were patented processes or genes associated with the parental lines.

An approval for the GM mustard variety has come under criticism not only from environmentalists but also the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliate. The government has crafted a slow way forward despite this resistance, couching its preference in nuances, claiming it was not in favour of blocking scientific progress but would protect farmers’ interests. The authorities were last forced to reveal some data on the GM food crop after it began to process the application in a hushed manner. After protests, the GEAC was also asked to meet those opposed to the proposal.

Also Read

NGO alleges tests rigged to prove GM mustard by DU high yielding

A Nobel endorsement

Niti Aayog member bats for GM pulses

Commodity picks- 6 June 2016

<b>Letters:</b> Dangers of GM crops

Rajasthan airport to use runway for flights and road traffic

Govt will safeguard farmers' interests: Dave on GM mustard

Panel on coal requirement by Sasan Power to meet next week

Niti Aayog prepares cabinet note to ease arbitration norms for infra companies

BCCI signs MoU with TERI to promote renewable energy

First Published: Aug 26 2016 | 0:27 AM IST

Explore News