By: Gargi Parsai

Even as the Union government is yet to pronounce a policy on genetically modified crops, a civil society group says there are attempts to seek the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)’s nod for commercialisation of the GM mustard crop, opening the door to genetically engineered food crops in the country.

An indefinite moratorium was placed on the commercial release of GM brinjal in 2010 — the first GM food crop — following public protests, while attempts to bring GM mustard were rejected by regulators in 2002 after farmers and consumers raised a hue and cry over genetic engineering of mustard which is used in ayurveda and consumed as a vegetable too.

Expressing concern over the manner in which field trials of GM mustard DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) were recently done in Punjab and the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in Delhi violating laid down norms, the Coalition for GM Free India said the GEAC was considering approvals for GM mustard but was not transparent about the data.

The GM mustard ‘DMH 11’ has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, the University of Delhi, led by former Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental, with support from the Department of Biotechnology and the National Dairy Development Board. The developers claim higher yield, but the civil society group challenges this saying the yields are no different from non-GM hybrids and, therefore, there is no need for GM crop which has potential to contaminate non-GM fields.

Convener of the Coalition Rajesh Krishnan said: “Delhi University’s GM mustard is essentially a backdoor entry for herbicide-tolerant crops into India in the guise of a public sector GM crop. An attempt was made for similar GM mustard by an MNC into India in 2002 which the regulators firmly rejected. Several panels, including a Parliamentary Committee, have rejected the use of herbicide- tolerant crops in India for health, environmental and socio-economic reasons.”

Originally Published: The Hindu