NEW DELHI: A committee under Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has turned down commercial release of genetically modified mustard developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants on grounds that more field trials are needed to ascertain its impact on honey bees, soil microbial diversity and honey.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry considered the application related to “Environmental release of Transgenic Mustard Hybrid DMH-11”, which was referred back to GEAC for its re-examination pursuant to receipt of several representations both in support and against after the 133rd meeting of GEAC held on May 11, 2017.
The GEAC had recommended commercial production of GM mustard last year and awaits final decision of the ministry. After detailed discussion and keeping in view that the application has been referred back to GEAC for re-examination, the committee has agreed that the applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration in an area of 5 acres at 2-3 different location.
Kavitha Kuruganthi, Co-Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) says that it is not true that these issues have been addressed, therefore, to record that the representations have been deliberated extensively is an irresponsible stand to take. “The GEAC, as usual, is brushing aside important issues that have been raised in objection to the clearance that it had provided to GM mustard in May 2017. The fact that GM mustard is a herbicide tolerant GM crop is one of the major objections. GEAC does not seem to be addressing this.
Similarly, the fact that there is no need for GM mustard, since hybridisation is possible through other means, and that mustard yields themselves can be improved through improved agronomic practices. What exactly is a “field demonstration” when you are trying to take up biosafety studies? It is the usual wishywashy careless attitude of GEAC on exhibition again,” said Kuruganthi. At present, GM cotton is the only genetically modified crop commercially allowed in India and if given go ahead, GM mustard would become India’s first GM food crop.