New Delhi, May 15 (IANS) The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry has allowed field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) variety of mustard, which are expected to be held this winter.
GEAC Chairperson A.K. Mehta confirmed the development to the IANS on Monday, adding however that it does not mean an approval for commercial release of the hybrid mustard.
“This is not the first time that we have allowed field trials of the GM mustard. It has happened before as well. This does not mean that the GM mustard has been approved. This is only about field trials,” Mehta said.
Geneticist Deepak Pental, who has developed the mustard variety Dhara Hybrid-11 (DMH-11), called the development “good decision”, which he said will help the country in ensuring “increased and guaranteed yield”.
Coalition for a GM-Free India has, however, opposed the GEAC’s decision calling it “extremely inadequate”.
As per the minutes of the GEAC 134th meeting held on March 21 this year, it took decision that “applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration on GM mustard in an area of 5 acre at 2-3 different locations with a view to generate additional data on honeybees and other pollinators and honey, and on soil microbial diversity”.
Pental told IANS that field trials will start in the winter and decision about choosing trial sites will be taken once he gets a formal letter from the ministry.
“It is sense of relief. We want farmers to be victorious and want country’s agriculture to do better. That is the basic idea behind the research funded with public money. There is no private investment,” he said.
He said the GM technology will last long and it will make farmers able to produce more yield.
“It is technology to last very long for the country because it has been invested to produce righteously. So once we give it to public sector system and private companies, they will come up with better and better hybrids,” he said.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Co-Convenor of Coalition for a GM-Free India, wrote a letter to GEAC Chairperson Mehta, stated: “This decision of GEAC is an extremely inadequate one, in relation to the decision that the government was supposed to take…”
The letter further said: “In fact, the Government and GEAC have committed to the nation that there would be a review, and now GEAC is obligated to begin by first stating what its scientific review plan is…”
Pental said he does not have “any desire to seek royalty right now” for the GM hybrid he developed.
He further said he would not be surprised if the anti-GM activists oppose the GEAC decision and challenge it in a court of law.