New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has opposed the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard, calling GM food crops a risk to ecology, health and commerce.
In a letter to Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan, Naidu appealed not to approve commercial cultivation of GM Mustard in the country. He also expressed “serious reservations to conduct field trials of GM crops in Andhra Pradesh" due to concerns like “contamination and unauthorized spread of GM seed".
It is significant as Naidu is a key constituent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
With this letter, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister joins states like Delhi, Bihar, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have who have already written to the environment ministry against permitting commercialisation of GM mustard.
In a letter to the environment minister dated 10 August, which was reviewed by Mint, Naidu said “understand" that GM Mustard is a “herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard hybrid" but “this aspect has not been incorporated into the testing regime or its scrutiny for approval".
The controversy is around GM mustard developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants. On 11 May, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal regulator for GM crops in India, recommended approval for the commercial production of GM mustard.
Now GM mustard is awaiting a final nod from minister Vardhan and if it gets a clearance, it will become India’s first GM food crop. At present, cotton is the only transgenic crop allowed in India.
“The government of AP has undertaken a large programme to develop natural farming, and it is a high priority of the department of agriculture to promote organic crops and marketing of certified organic crops. We believe that this is the best way forward for ensuring better incomes for farmers as well as sustaining soil fertility, crop diversity and cattle wealth," said Naidu while highlighting that the central government too has a programme to promote organic farming.
“The reality is that GM crops and organic farming cannot be compatible with each other. Allowing GM crops will seriously affect India’s status as a potential giant in organic food production. In many food crops, the non-GMO status of Indian produce makes it a sought after export commodity to European and other countries," Naidu cautioned.
Stressing that GM food crops is a major risk in terms of ecology, health and commerce, Naidu asked the ministry not to approve GM mustard for commercialisation.
“As agriculture is a state subject, we hope that these concerns are given prime importance in the decision making on this important issue … It is not a practical approach to say that even after approval by the government of India, each state can decide whether to allow the cultivation of the GM crop because once commercialisation is allowed it would be very difficult for state governments to regulate whether the seed is used in their states," Naidu said.
A case regarding the issue is also being heard at the Supreme Court wherein the central government said it is likely to take a final decision on the commercial rollout of GM mustard by September