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GM Mustard: No deadline extension for feedback on biosafety

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Environment Ministry today refused to extend the October 5 deadline for receiving public feedback on the biosafety dossier prepared by its panel on GM Mustard, even as several organisations wrote to Prime Minister Modi demanding a ban on the hybrid product.

The Ministry said it would now examine the over 100 representations on the biosafety dossier after which these would be sent to the sub-committee for its consideration.

Anti-GM groups have been demanding an extension of the deadline for public feedback on the biosafety dossier.

Kisan Ekta wrote a letter to Modi, noting that GM crops are not the solution and demanded denial of approval to GM Mustard, while Coalition for GM Free alleged the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) ran a "sham" of a public consultation process which shows that it has something to hide on this "unwanted unneeded and unsafe" GM crop.

"Once we have gone through the representations, we will pass it on to the sub-committee which was formed to look into the biosafety of GM mustard. Once they have studied it, they will come up with the final version and then it will be taken up in the GEAC.

"We have got around 110 email representations. Around 10-12 people have also come to the Ministry and read the dossier which had been placed there. We have decided that there will be no extension of the feedback deadline," a top Environment Ministry official told PTI, adding that the dates of GEAC's next meeting has not been decided as of now.

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) of Delhi University had applied for Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approval for environmental release of hybrid DMH-11 for the development of new generation hybrids. GEAC constituted experts sub-committee to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard.

After the committee examined it, the report was placed on the Environment Ministry's website inviting comments from stakeholders within a period of 30 days, which ended today.

"GM crops are not the solution. We want the government to immediately stop the approval of GM Mustard. Do not push GM crops in the name of farmers. What we need is a 'Yellow Revolution', with better prices support and increased import tariffs for oil.

"Dear Modiji, We also wish to state that we will commit to help increase its oil seed production and attain self sufficiency, provided we are supported in the right manner. Our response to the Biosafety Assessment is hence very clear. We do not want this hazardous crop GM Mustard," Kisan Ekta said in its letter to Modi.

The Convenor of the Coalition for a GM Free India,

Kavitha Kuruganti, said what is "alarming" is that farm livelihood security, food safety, citizens' health and sustainability of our environment are not the priority of the government.

"If there is respect for science, sustainability as well as social justice, the current application for GM Mustard which has bacterial genes for male sterility and herbicide tolerance, would have been rejected at the beginning itself.

"The fact that GEAC refused to put in the public domain the entire biosafety studies and ran a sham of a public consultation process in a haste shows that they have something to hide on this unwanted, unneeded and unsafe GM crop," she said in her fax message to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

The Coalition claimed that the PMO was inundated with hundreds of faxes from farmer unions, scientists and consumers urging him to step in and stop any approval of the controversial Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard.

The coalition said that the sub-committee and the biosafety dossier it produced reveals that instead of prescribing various studies that should be done comprehensively, rigorously and for a long period in this appraisal stage, many studies are being suggested for a post-release monitoring stage.

Kisan Ekta said the government's plan to promote GM crops was "not acceptable".

"Please do not allow the poison story to repeat. Approval of Herbicide-Tolerant crops will lead to massive use of herbicides.

"After farmers spend thousands of crores of rupees every year buying GM seeds and herbicides, we will find that super-weeds have formed like in the US, soil has become less fertile, cancer and kidney cases will increase. We will then be told to stop using GM seeds and chemicals. But who will take responsibility for the wrong decisions?" it asked.

Kisan Ekta is the largest coalition of farmers organisations in with about 62 major farmers and fisherfolk groups being associated with it.

First Published: Wed, October 05 2016. 20:13 IST