In­dia in No Hurry to Grow GM Food Crops Even Af­ter GEAC Nod

Ob­jec­tions raised by sci­en­tists & farm­ers to be ex­am­ined be­fore de­cid­ing on ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered mus­tard

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Nidhi.Sharma@ times­

New Delhi: The­gov­ern­men­tisinno hurry to in­tro­duce ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied food crops in the coun­try, three months af­ter the sec­tor reg­u­la­tor gave its nod to com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of GM mus­tard, be­cause of wide­spread op­po­si­tion from dif­fer­ent quar­ters.

The gov­ern­ment has de­cided to ex­am­ine all ob­jec­tions raised by sci­en­tists and farm­ers be­fore tak­ing a de­ci­sion on ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered mus­tard, en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Harsh Vard­han has said. “Pur­suant to rec­om­men­da­tion of GE mus­tard by GEAC (Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing Ap­praisal Com­mit­tee), sev­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tions have been raised by a wide range of stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing sci­en­tists, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, farm­ers and NGOs,” Vard­han told ET. “The is­sues raised are man­i­fold, like long-term health and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, her­bi­cide tol­er­ance, loss to honey bees and pol­li­na­tors, out­per­for­mance of na­tive va­ri­eties, no en­hance­ment in yields, etc. All th­ese is­sues are un­der ex­am­i­na­tion,” he said.

GEAC, In­dia’s reg­u­la­tor for trans­genic prod­ucts, had given a green sig­nal to GM mus­tard in early May, paving way for in­tro­duc­tion of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied food crops. Af­ter the reg­u­la­tor’s nod, the fi­nal call is taken by the gov­ern­ment.

De­vel­oped by Delhi Univer­sity-based Cen­tre for Ge­netic Ma­nip­u­la­tion of Crop Plants (CGMCP), GE mus­tard is ar­gued to be su­pe­rior as it is re­sis­tant to pests and dis­eases. Sup­port­ers also claimed that its com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion would mean bet­ter yields, lower use of pes­ti­cides and more en­vi­ron­ment-friendly prac­tices.

But sev­eral stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing RSS af­fil­i­ates Swadeshi Ja­gran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, have ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to GM food crops. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh has al­ready given a rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry op­pos­ing the move. Though im­pact of th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions on the Modi gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion mak­ing is ques­tioned, sources be­lieve this is one of the rea­sons for the cau­tious ap­proach.

Also, in its 2014 elec­tion man­i­festo, BJP had said, “GM foods will not be al­lowed with­out full sci­en­tific eval­u­a­tion on its long-term ef­fects on soil, pro­duc­tion and bi­o­log­i­cal im­pact on con­sumers.”

The is­sue is also un­der ex­am­i­na­tion by the Supreme Court. The gov­ern­ment has told the top court that it would take a call by Septem­ber, be­fore the rabi crop sea­son be­gins in Oc­to­ber. In­tro­duc­tion of GM food crops has been a po­lit­i­cal hot potato for suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments. In 2010, GEAC had ap­proved com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of Bt brin­jal. How­ever, then en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Jairam Ramesh re­fused to give his nod be­cause of vo­cif­er­ous protests from the civil so­ci­ety.

BJP’s poll man­i­festo in 2014 had stated that GM foods will not be al­lowed with­out full sci­en­tific eval­u­a­tion

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