The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) headed by Amita Prasad has approved the commercial release of a herbicide-tolerant GM mustard (Brassica juncea).
The 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.
The recommendation for clearance has been now sent to Environment Ministry who has to approve this decision.
GM mustard is the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in Indian fields.
Bt Brinjal was cleared by the Committee in 2010 but was blocked by then Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh.
In December 2015 the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had applied to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica Juncea) hybrid DMH-11.
It was Deepak Pental a well-known genetics scientist and ex-vice chancellor of the Delhi University who had filed the application with the GEAC for the commercial release of GM Mustard.
A sub-committee of the GAEC has examined the safety aspect of GM Mustard and already given its approval stating that GM mustard is safe for human consumption and also for the environment.
However, a number of environmentalists, anti-GM groups and think tanks like Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) have opposed the cultivation of this transgenic variety of mustard. The argument put forward is that GM Mustard is not a high productivity crop and therefore growing it will not be helpful in bringing down oil imports. They have stated that the existing ‘desi’ or native varieties of mustard have higher productivity than this newly-developed GM Mustard.
However it is ‘Sarson Satyagraha’, a broad platform of hundreds of NGOs that represent farmers, consumers, scientists and others that has vehemently opposed the approval given by the GEAC for GM Mustard; their argument being that it is herbicide tolerant.
Major states where mustard is grown and consumed like Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal, have declared that they would not allow GM crops to be grown within their territories.