Regulatory body meets, but no decision on GM mustard

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on February 05, 2016

Activists protesting against GM mustard outside the Ministry of Environment and Forest, in New Delhi on Friday RAMESH SHARMA

Javadekar says ‘will not rush through, but cannot stop science from progressing’

Under pressure from farmer organisations, civil society activists, some State governments and Opposition parties, as well as the BJP’s own affiliates, such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) – the regulatory body for genetically-modified food under the Environment Ministry – did not take a decision on commercial cultivation of GM mustard on Friday.

Pressure building

“In today’s meeting, we sought more information from those who developed GM mustard (Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, Delhi University) and had applied for permission for commercial cultivation. We will not rush through and will take a decision only after due deliberations,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters after the meeting. He, however, said that “We cannot stop science from progressing, and cannot starve our population,” adding that there was “need for higher agricultural productivity, but keeping health safety in mind.”

Javadekar said there were “rumours” and ‘misgivings” about Friday’s meeting, which he said was held to get more information on GM mustard, as sought by the court from the Centre in 15 days. Once we submit this information to the court, it will be a “public document,” he added.

His comments come in the wake of the Ministry facing flak for holding GEAC meetings in a “secret” manner and “not disclosing the minutes of the meetings for over two years.”

Proper scrutiny needed

Javadekar also met civil society members who were protesting at the meeting venue demanding that information, including safety data, be made public.

Kavita Kuruganti, National Convenor of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said GM options should only be explored when no other option is available.

“That is not true for mustard, where agro-ecological organic methods are available for increase in productivity.”

Umendra Dutt, of Sarson Satyagrah, questioned not making the data on GM mustard, which directly impacts people, public.

“True science would have welcomed a proper public scrutiny and debate on the whole subject, and not hidden it in ‘confidentiality’ clauses.

What is top secret about the safety of your food and mine, unless there is something to be hidden?” he said.

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Published on February 05, 2016
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