India?s top scientific panel gives safety tag to GM Mustard

New Delhi (ISJ) - The national regulator for genetically modified crops, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has given scientific clearance to Genetically Modified Mustard. The GEAC has released the report on the safety of GM Mustard in public domain for comments before finally releasing it for cultivation.

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. The GEAC had conducted risk assessment of DMH-11 and development of new hybrids Varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 modbs 2.99 and has now come out with its report.

?Data on risk assessment based on hazard identification and exposure assessment shows that the GE mustard, the parental lines and hybrid DMH 11 do not raise any public health or safety concerns in human beings and animals with respect to overall nutritional characteristics,? said the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety for GM Mustard.� ?In conclusion, based on compositional analysis, GE mustard does not differ significantly from non-GE mustard and is as safe as commercially cultivated non-GE mustard varieties.?

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests under 'Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989', under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

A notification by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change says ?all genetically engineered organisms and products thereof are regulated as per ?Rules for Manufacture, Use/Import/Export & Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms/GE organisms or cells, 1989? notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.?

?As per the provisions of Rules, 1989, the biosafety dossier submitted by CGMCP, University of Delhi South Campus has been received by GEAC. GEAC has constituted a sub-committee of scientific experts to thoroughly examine the biosafety data submitted by the applicant. The sub-committee has examined the dossier on food safety, environmental safety, compliance etc. and has prepared a document 'Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES)? for Environmental release of GE Mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and use of parental events (Varuna bn3.6 and EH2 modbs 2.99) for development of new generation hybrids.' "

?The document prepared by the sub-committee is hereby placed on the website for comments by stakeholders and general public for a period of 30 days. The comments received will be reviewed by the sub-committee and GEAC prior to taking appropriate decision.?

Activists have been campaigning against GM Mustard, claiming there are existing local and hybrid varieties which give as much or more than the yield of GM variety.

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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