Genetically-modified Mustard to be commercially cultivated
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has given clearance for the commercial cultivation of genetically modified mustard. It has forwarded the approval to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for consideration. Minister of State with independent charge of Environment and Forests, Anil Dave will take the final call on the crop. If approved, it will be India's first genetically modified food crop.
What are GM crops?
Genetically modified (GM) crops are plants whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques to develop suitable traits (all-weather growing, naturally averse to pests, less water-intensive, auto fruiting etc.) GM foods are debated to have serious consequences for human health and the environment.
India's cotton yield
Since the genetically modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton was introduced in India in 2002, it saw a massive increase in India's cotton yield. India went from being a net importer of cotton to the second-largest producer and exporter of cotton in the world. Bt cotton is India's only GM crop in use. Yet, dependence on multinationals for seeds has invited opposition from nationalist groups.
The Bt Brinjal debate
Bt Brinjal was created in 2005 by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco); American MNC Monsanto claimed that yield has improved. However, environmental activists, supported by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini have raised concerns over the introduction of such experimental foods. According to reports, GM crops, when tested on rats, have proved fatal for lungs and kidneys. Commercial release of Bt Brinjal is still under consideration.
GM Mustard: Why does the govt want it?
The approved GM Mustard was developed by Delhi University's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Plant Crops, to allay fears of allowing corporations to take over the seed businesses in India. India is heavily dependent on edible oils, which it imports from countries like Brazil and Argentina, which allow GM crops. India seeks to replicate the success of Bt Cotton with GM oilseeds.
Several groups reject decision
Environmentalists and anti-GMO groups vehemently opposed the clearance to GM Mustard. They accused Delhi University and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of producing test results based on fudged data. Even the RSS-backed economic policy think-tank Swadeshi Jagran Manch vowed to take up the matter in the Supreme Court.
Activists decry move
Activists condemned the approval given to GM Mustard, saying "it is a hazardous herbicide tolerant food crop...which has direct implications for a large number of Indian farmers, agricultural workers and consumers."