New Delhi(web team): Thousands of people hit the streets in cities across the world to…
On Friday, the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) of the union environment ministry deferred its decision to recommend a proposal to commercialise cultivation of genetically modified (GM) Mustard as it sought additional information related to field trials. The GEAC is the country’s apex body for approving GM crops and organisms. After the meeting concluded, union environment minister Prakash Javadekar sought to assure people that his ministry is not “rushing into any decision” neither will it “impose decisions without wide consultations.”
GEAC’s meeting and Javadekar’s clarification on Friday came in the backdrop of mounting pressure from farmer organisations, political parties and activists who have alleged that the environment ministry is conducting its business on GM Mustard ‘secretively’. The Coalition for GM Free India, a loose collective of anti-GM organisations have alleged that Supreme Court laid norms and bio safety norms have not been followed while conducting field trials of GM Mustard. The Union environment ministry in fact turned down several RTI applications that sought information on GM Mustard’s bio safety.
As the GEAC got underway on Friday, members of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Kheti Virasat Mission and Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan protested outside the environment ministry. When they refused to budge, Hem Pande, additional secretary of the ministry stepped outside the ministry building and requested the protesters to convey their grievances to Prakash Javadekar. A group of five, including Aam Aadmi Party minister Kapil Mishra, met Javadekar to convey their reservations against GM Mustard commercialization and also submitted 41,000 signatures collected during a change.org petition against GM Mustard.
“The meeting went on for 20 minutes and we informed Javadekar that fundamental changes are needed in regulation of GM crops and organisms. Every application needs to be handled with specific inputs on requirements for GM crops and alternatives available. Also, a representation from health ministry should be mandatory,” said Kavita Kuruganti, convenor, Coalition of GM Free India.
The GM mustard crop in India has been developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants. The research on the transgenic is headed by Dr Deepak Pental, the director of the Centre and ex-vice chancellor of Delhi University. The GM Mustard crop being pushed for commercialisation is named Dhara mustard hybrid (DMH 11) and has been developed with funding from Department of Biotechnology and National Dairy Development Board. Pental and his team claim that the GM mustard will increase yield by “20-25 per cent” and help in bringing down imports of edible oil.