NEW DELHI: The environment ministry's expert panel has approved field demonstration for genetically modified mustard at two places in the country to assess its impact on honeybees and other pollinators, one of the major concerns raised by civil society and farmers' organizations opposing commercialization of GM mustard.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry has approved an application by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi, for conduct of field demonstration studies on honeybees and other pollinators at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, on five acres each.
"The GEAC members noted that the total area for conduct of these demonstration studies in each location, including GM and non-GM plantation, could be up to an area of five acres only. It was agreed that any pesticide that adversely impacts honeybees should not be used," said the minutes of the meeting.
The Committee also deliberated on the issue of requirement of a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from state governments for conduct of these field demonstration studies.
"Considering that these field demonstrations studies are in continuation of Biosafety Research Level (BRL)-I and BRL-II trials, for which the two states concerned had already given NOC earlier to the applicant, the members agreed that the state governments of Delhi and Punjab may be suitably informed by the applicant," the committee added.
Several scientists, farmers' organizations, and civil society groups have registered their concerns over the commercial release GM mustard on the grounds that not enough research has happened on claims of high production, and impact on indigenous high-yielding varieties of crop plants.
At present, GM cotton is the only genetically modified crop commercially allowed in India. If given the go-ahead, GM mustard would become India's first GM food crop. The GEAC had cleared GM brinjal in 2010, but the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, had not cleared it after protests erupted against it across the country.