GM mustard closer to taking root with regulator’s approval

Aesha Datta TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2018


But commercial prospects rest on Supreme Court

Genetically modified mustard, which has been at the heart of a controversy since its initial days, has moved a step closer to reality, with the GM regulator giving its seal of approval.

Amita Prasad, Chairperson, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), told BusinessLine that the committee met on Thursday and this was one of the agenda items. “The sub-committee submitted its report on the safety document. GEAC has recommended that the crop be approved,” she said.

A final call on the report rests with Environment Minister Anil Dave. However, whether the crop is commercially released for cultivation or not will depend on the Supreme Court, which is hearing a case seeking a moratorium on the commercial release of the crop.

The apex court has issued a stay on its release and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change will need a sanction from the court before giving its nod.

First developed in the early 2000s, GM mustard was one of the first genetically modified food crops to be considered. However, Bt cotton secured the first approval for commercial release in 2002, and GM mustard now awaits its turn.

GM mustard has been facing criticism from environmentalists, anti-GM activists and the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

Environmental activist Aruna Rodrigues, who has petitioned the Supreme Court opposing the crop, said, “They can’t release it. This approval is completely irregular and unethical. We have proven fraud (in the GM mustard studies showing higher yield).”

“Their plan is to give its approval now and hope that by the time sowing season starts, they will be ready to sell it,” she said.

Hearing in July

The Supreme Court is likely to take up the hearing in July, after the break.

Deepak Pental, who headed the team that developed this transgenic food crop, said he was not aware of the latest development.

Several other food crops, such as Bt brinjal, have fallen foul of the GM regulator and failed to get approval. The new development may spur India’s push towards modified high-yielding transgenic crops.

Published on May 11, 2017

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