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Govt says GM Mustard safe for humans, activists disagree

The centre told the SC that GM Mustard was not detrimental to crops and safe for humans, activists argue the conclusions are based on faulty and inadequate scientific evidence.

environment Updated: Jul 31, 2017 10:48 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Press Trust of India
GM Mustard,Genetically modified,crops
The Supreme Court is hearing a matter concerning the release of GM Mustard in India on Monday.((Representational Photo)(Reuters File Photo))

The Supreme Court is hearing the case concerning GM Mustard Monday, even as the Centre told the court that GM crops has no harmful effects on other crops and historically has proven safe for human consumption.

The environment ministry said that it has not made any decision regarding the commercial release of GM Mustard, which could become the first genetically modified food crop allowed in India.

The Supreme Court could pass an injunction on the commercial release of the crop, even as it decides on a petition filed Aruna Rodrigues seeking a moratorium on the release of GM Mustard.

The variety was cleared by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, India’s apex biosafety regulator that functions under the environment ministry, on May 11 and has since spurred a an avalanche of protests from environmental activists and farmer groups, who fear it would increase their dependency on multinational companies that develop these technologies.

In this case,one of the government’s biggest claims is that it is developed indigenously at the University of Delhi, under the guidance of Prof Deepak Pental, a geneticist. However, groups like those led by Vandana Shiva, disagree saying that the base patents for the new variety are owned by Bayer AG, an agro major that is in the process of merging with Monsanto, another agro giant, which would further skew the agricultural technology market.

The Anti-GM lobby has approached Prime Minister Modi to obtain a moratorium on the release. The last time, a food crop went to this extent, was in the case of BT Brinjal, which also received the approval of GEAC but its release was stayed indefinitely by then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh.

The GM-Free India coalition points to the farcical “conditional approval” in the case of Bt cotton. “This is all the more unacceptable in the case of GM mustard since this GM is completely unneeded in the first instance... We write to urge you to ensure that this GM mustard application is rejected in toto,” the coalition said in a letter to the prime minister.

GEAC chairman, Amita Prasad, told the Hindustan Times that the approval granted by the committee was conditional not absolute and subject to certain conditions regarding area cropped, submission of regular reports.

With PTI inputs

First Published: Jul 31, 2017 10:48 IST