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
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