Between productivity and safety, India differ decision on GM Mustard

Between productivity and safety, India differ decision on GM Mustard

New Delhi (ISJ) ? India once again shied away from taking a final call on commercially cultivating GM Mustard, facing opposition from farmers? bodies, civil society activists, some state governments and opposition parties. Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, an RSS-affiliate itself is opposing GM crops. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) ? the regulatory body for genetically-modified food under the federal Environment Ministry, which met in New Delhi on Feb. 04 (Friday), deferred its decision.

?Government has the mandate, not the scientists,? reacted Deepak Pental, who heads the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) in Delhi University, which developed the GM variant Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11 (DMH11) had sought the clearance of GEAC for commercial cultivation of the transgenic food crop in the country. ?Policy decisions are in the hands of Parliament, political leadership and the executive. What can we do? We can only try to make arguments and try to convince them, with data. That we have done. ?

GM Mustard Protest 0502?We sought more information from those who developed GM Mustard and had applied for permission for commercial cultivation,? explained Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javedkar after the meeting of the regulatory body. ?We will not rush through and will take a decision only after due deliberations.?

Pental sounded sarcastic and said, India could face food grain shortage, like Europe if scientific cultivation is not introduced to feed its billion plus population, with cultivable land shrinking.

?European scientists are brilliant; they are doing such good work. But their countries are not benefiting from their research. Then what can scientists do?? he lamented. ?While Europe is facing shortage of grain, the entire soybean required to feed its livestock is imported from Brazil and Argentina,? said Pental.� ?It is for the government. If there are some issues, where they want more explanations or politically decide that transgenic crops should not be brought into India at all.?

On the other hand, activists opposing GM crops questions lack of transparency in the trial results. �

The GEAC had in 2010 given green signal for commercial cultivation of BT Brinjal, but put an indefinite moratorium by then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on the face of opposition from farmers, activists and a section of scientists. Currently only genetically modified cotton is permitted for cultivation in India.�

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