Mustard one step closer to becoming 2nd GM crop in India after cotton

In a major push towards use of genetically modified crops, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the regulator for GM crops, today recommended commercial use of GM mustard in a submission made to the environment ministry.

The GEAC in a meeting held today approved the commercial use of GM mustard, news agency PTI reported.

If approved, mustard would be the first genetically modified direct food crop to be commercially launched in India, after the failed attempts with Bt brinjal.

GM Cotton is the only crop which has been allowed in India so far.

GEAC, which is under the the ministry, reviewed a report of a sub-committee constituted to look at the safety angle.

The GEAC has also put a number of conditions to the ministry while recommending its commercial use.

"The agenda of GM mustard came up in a meeting of the GEAC today. It has given a positive recommendation," the official told PTI.

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.

The environment ministry had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website.

The application was submitted in 2015 after which several rounds of meeting were held by the GEAC. The sub-committee also convened meetings with experts.

The GEAC also heard the views of various NGOs not in favour of giving an approval to GM crops.

Meanwhile, RSS-affiliate, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) slammed the GEAC for recommending commercial released of GM mustard on the grounds that it won't lead to higher productivity.

"We are against the commercial use of any genetically modified crops, including GM mustard. And we will request that the government should not allow its commercial cultivation," SJM co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said.

The productivity of existing desi varieties are higher than this newly-developed GM mustard, Mahajan claimed.

He added that GM mustard would impact allied sectors such as beekeepers, orchards and ayurvedic medicine makers and practitioners.

Environment activist Vandana Shiva had also opposed GM mustard, saying it is "illegal" and developers have done "fraud science". 

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