Government Considering Approval to GM Mustard
While the central government is yet to take a call on introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the country, a civil society group said that the union environment ministry is secretly considering commercial approvals of GM mustard, first genetically engineered food crop, in the country.
The Coalition for GM Free India said that GM mustard it has reportedly completed biosafety assessments and could be brought up in the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for any environmental releases of GMOs in the country, for commercialization approval. The environment ministry has been considering for approval field trials of GM crops on case to case basis.
The GM mustard ‘DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11)’ has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi led by former Delhi University Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental with support from DBT (Dept of Biotechnology) and NDDB (National Dairy Development Board). A moratorium was laid on Bt Brinjal in 2010 after countrywide opposition.
Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor of the Coalition said: “Delhi University’s GM mustard is essentially a backdoor entry for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops into India, in the guise of a public sector GM crop. An attempt was made for similar GM mustard by an MNC into India in 2002 which the regulators firmly rejected.”
The group said that the GM mustard developers are hoodwinking the nation with claims on yield increase whereas there is no yield improvement compared with the same hybrid produced through non-GM process.
“The purported genetic modification for male sterility is only meant to ease the seed production by the seed sellers. This is nothing but a Trojan horse for many other HT GM crops lined up by MNCs like Monsanto which are in the regulatory pipeline,” he said.
This GM mustard comes up for consideration for commercialization approval when there is an increasing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops and herbicides including a recent study by WHO pointing to the carcinogenic potential of herbicides like glyphosate.
“At a time when the entire nation is concerned with laxity in food safety regulation as seen in the Maggi case, it is outrageous that GM food crops are being pushed without adequate safety assessment and transparency,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
She claimed that the entire biosafety assessment of this GM mustard is shrouded in secrecy with repeated efforts including RTI requests to seek information on the statutory safety assessments having remained unanswered from GEAC, starting from 2006.