Business Standard

Pro-GM groups upset over questions on environmental impact of GM mustard

Delhi University's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants and the National Dairy Development Board are the joint applicants for GM mustard

The GEAC said on the website that the recommendation to release GM mustard is for four years from the date of issue of the approval letter.

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Sanjeeb Mukherjee New Delhi

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Pro-GM scientists and developers have expressed dismay over questions being raised on the environmental impact of genetically modified (GM) Mustard.

They believe that the argument of environmental impact of GM Mustard is being raked to delay the environmental release, a move that could jeopardise India’s oilseed security.

“The barnase-barstar genes are totally environment friendly and we have done extensive research. Nowhere in the world since 1998 where this gene has been used has there been any report of any adverse environmental impact,” Deepak Pental, a former vice-chancellor of the Delhi University, and one of the main brains behind DMH-11 (the GM mustard up for approval) told Business Standard.

Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) are the joint applicants of GM mustard.

Pental said that the issue of environmental impact is being raised to delay the approval, which could lead to adverse consequences for India's edible oil security.

He said that most of the arguments presented by those opposing the technology are non-scientific and without any basis.

The Supreme Court  (SC) on Tuesday deferred the consideration of the Centre's plea for the withdrawal of an oral undertaking made to the court in November last year, pledging to maintain the status quo on the release of GM mustard

The undertaking was made before a bench headed by Justice Dinesh Maheshwari who has since retired.

The application for the same by the Centre will now be considered on September 26.

It said harm done to the environment can't be reversed while deferring the hearing on GM Mustard.

On November 3, the SC directed for maintaining the status quo on the decision of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee(GEAC), allowing the environmental release of GM Mustard for seed production and testing.

On October 25 last year, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment ministry approved the environmental release of transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 and the parental lines containing barnase, barstar and bar genes so they can be used for developing new hybrids.

Bhagirath Choudhary, founder and director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre in Jodhpur, said that in India, the biosafety regulation of GM crops is administered by the Central Environment Ministry and not by the agriculture or science ministry.

This, he said, should be an adequate reason for the Supreme Court to trust the scope and veracity of regulatory oversight and dispose of the GM crop case.

“The nod for the environmental release of GM Mustard was given after a rigorous and comprehensive  environmental and Biosafety risk assessment by various regulatory agencies under Rules 1989 of the EPA, 1986. It took our regulatory agencies and scientific community for more than two decades to evaluate the risk aspects from every possible angle to conclude the biosafety of GM Mustard for humans, animals and the environment,” Choudhary said.

The barnase-barstar GM technology has transformed canola production in Canada, Australia and USA, and now constitutes a major export farm produce including honey.

These countries have approved multiple-trait GM canola allowing their farmers to harness the yield potential through hybridisation and deploying an efficient weed control system by adopting multiple mode of action weed control systems.

“More than 90 per cent of their farmers grow multiple trait GM canola and reap a bountiful harvest season after season, without any verifiable adverse effects either to humans or to the environment in the last 27 years,” he added.
Topics : GM Mustard

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First Published: Aug 30 2023 | 9:10 PM IST

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