NEW DELHI:A committee under the union environment ministry has decided to drop the requirement of conducting a study on the impact of GM mustard on soil microflora, with activists saying the decision has been influenced by crop developers.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry considered the application related to “Environmental release of Transgenic Mustard Hybrid DMH-11”.
GM mustard has been developed by the Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.
“The application related to transgenic mustard along with the protocols and response received from Delhi University was deliberated by the members. The members agreed to the request of applicant for exemption to conduct soil microflora studies, as these studies were already completed during the conduct of BRL-I (biosafety research level) & BRL-II trials,” noted the minutes of a meeting.
The Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group of organisations, said the GEAC was once again showing that it did not assess biosafety thoroughly, under the influence of crop developers and applicants.
“A study that was found to be important enough to be recommended in a subcommittee’s decision earlier, and also by the entire GEAC in May 2018, is now being dropped by the Committee on the request of the applicant,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.
The GEAC members also noted that the total area for conducting these demonstration studies, including non-GM plantation, would be five acres.
“These five-acre demonstration trials are actually creeping commercialisation in that contamination risk is very high. We have, on record, the fact that no contamination testing is being done for such trials. This will deliver a fait accompli, just as they seem to be doing with imported GM at this point of time,” she said.
The GEAC recommended commercial production of GM mustard last year. The matter is awaiting a final decision by the environment minister. After activists protested, the application was referred back to the GEAC for re-examination.