Activists warn against genetically modified mustard

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) A group of activists here on Wednesday warned the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) against making any attempts to approve commercialisation of GM (genetically modified) mustard, a statement said.

Releasing a briefing paper on Delhi University’s GM mustard, the ‘GM Free Coalition’ reminded the GEAC of the uproar that was created when Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop, was approved by it.

The GEAC is the nodal agency for commercialisation approval and any environmental releases of genetically modified organisms in the country.

“The GM mustard developers are hoodwinking the nation with claims on yield increase whereas there is no yield improvement compared with the same hybrid produced through non-GM process,” Rajesh Krishnan, convenor of the coalition, said.

The GEAC should not forget the flood of concerns that rocked the entire country when the Bt Brinjal was approved by the regulator and later had to be put under an indefinite moratorium by the government during 2009-10, he added.

GM mustard is the first genetically engineered food crop being considered for commercial approval by the GEAC since the Bt Brinjal fiasco.

Krishnan said Delhi University’s GM mustard is essentially a backdoor entry for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops into India, in the guise of a public sector GM crop.

“Rejection of herbicide tolerant crops is a recommendation made repeatedly by many Committees over the years, given the health, environmental and enormous socio-economic impact that this will leave on rural employment.”

The GM mustard in question, named DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11), has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi, with support from Department of Biotechnology and National Dairy Development Board.

It has reportedly completed biosafety assessments and could be brought up for commercialisation approval.

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