Issue of GEAC Approval of GM Mustard

Environment Ministry has clarified that no final decision was taken on approval to GM Mustard. A section of the media has carried reports that GEAC in the Ministry has granted approval to GM Mustard.

GM crops are those in which the genetic material (DNA) is altered so that there is some advantage either to the producer or consumer. Bt Brinjal, for example, has been tweaked to resist pests.

The GEAC comprises of government officials and scientists, housed under the environment ministry. It appraises the environmental and public health hazards of conducting field trials of genetically engineered crops, of their release for open planting by farmers and consumption by people.

It is headed by special secretary in the environment ministry and its recommendations are only rarely opposed by the government.

Any GM crop, including food crops like mustard, are required to go through two levels of safety tests including field trials, called Biosafety Research Level I and II trials, before they can be appraised for commercial cropping by GEAC. Both the trial stages have been completed for the GM Mustard.

The GM mustard “DMH 11” developed by Delhi University scientists makes use of three genes already incorporated in rapeseed hybrids in Canada, the United States and Australia.

Earlier the GEAC has approved the commercial release of Bt brinjal it has been stayed by the Ministry of Environment. The only genetically modified crop approved for release in India is cotton.

So far about 20 GM crops are under trial at various stages.

According to scientists, no oil made from a GM product is free of foreign DNA. Even in small amounts, DNA is genetic material and can cause damage. There is incontrovertible evidence that oils made from GM material do contain foreign DNA.