New Delhi: Commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) mustard in India will have to wait as the country’s nodal regulator for GM crops is yet to take a final call.
The environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) which met on Wednesday did not discuss clearance of GM mustard; it was also non-committal about when it would consider the proposal, according to officials familiar with the developments.
GM mustard has been developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP). If the crop wins approval from the regulator, it will become the first transgenic food crop to be commercially cultivated in India. At present, only GM cotton is cultivated in the country.
On 5 September last year, the GEAC made public a safety assessment report prepared by one of its sub-committees which stated that GM mustard technology was found to be “safe for food/feed and environment". But, as there was opposition from civil society groups and environmentalists, the ministry invited comments on the report from all stakeholders including the public till 5 October.
A total of 759 comments were received and sent to the sub-committee. “The sub-committee had already submitted its report after examining the comments. Now GEAC has to consider it. But it has not come on our agenda yet. Once it comes to GEAC for consideration we will take a final call on whether to allow commercialization of GM mustard," said a senior ministry official requesting anonymity.
The official, however, refused to put a time frame as to when GM Mustard will come for GEAC’s consideration.
GEAC has come under huge pressure from civil society groups over GM mustard. In October, nearly 150 organizations from across India protested at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, warning the central government of a stir it if it approved the commercialization of GM mustard.
The Supreme Court is also hearing a case on the issue, wherein the Central government has told the apex court that it would not release GM mustard without the court’s nod.
If GEAC clears commercialisation of GM mustard, the proposal will need a nod from the union environment minister and the apex court.
“It is a fairly simple decision for the government to take and the GM mustard application should be simply thrown out. GM mustard is a herbicide tolerant crop and is not needed," said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, a nationwide informal network of more than 400 organizations drawn from 20 states.