New Delhi: A group of agriculture scientists, ecologists, farmers and consumer rights activists on Monday made detailed presentations before the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to present evidence on the suspected hazards posed by genetically modified (GM) mustard and vowed to step up opposition to any possible approval to the variety.

The group asked GEAC, India’s regulator for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to reject an application seeking permission for commercialization of GM mustard. GEAC is considering a proposal for permitting commercialization of transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation and Crop Plants (CGMCP).

The group demanded that “all documents pertaining to DMH-11 R&D from its inception" be made public, and said approving GM mustard will force farmers to buy seeds every season and will affect their crop diversity and profitability.

The issue of field trials of GM crops and their commercialization, especially food crops such as brinjal and mustard, has been a contentious one in India. If GEAC clears GM mustard, it will become India’s first GM food crop to be grown. Currently, only GM cotton is allowed in India.

A final decision on the case is expected to be taken in next few months. Read more here

The group of opponents of GM mustard also called on GEAC for “fixing of liability on crop developers for false/incorrect evidence provided willfully to regulators in addition to violations of biosafety norms laid down for field trials and blacklisting such applicants in the regulatory system."

Monday’s special GEAC meeting was held following criticism that these stakeholders had not been given sufficient time to present their case at a meeting on 20 June.

“One of the key points raised by the team today includes the fact that all the three GMOs being considered for approval are Herbicide Tolerant with serious ecological and health implications, apart from socio-economic," the activists said in a statement.

An environment ministry official said any decision on allowing commercialisation of GM mustard will not be taken in a hurry.

“Safety of people and welfare of farmers is paramount for us. Every concern will be addressed," the official added on condition of anonymity.