: Accusing the Union government of cutting corners for the environmental release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard developed by the University of Delhi, environmental activists have expressed concern over the impact of the new variety on human and animal health, biodiversity and the environment.
In a response submitted to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the city-based environmental organisation Thanal said the hybrid variety of GM mustard was not needed, unsafe and unsustainable. It accused the committee of thrusting a toxic product on the people, disregarding its impact on future generations.
The letter addressed to Amita Prasad, Chair, GEAC, pointed out that GEAC had sought public feedback on the new variety without releasing the full biosafety data. “Only the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) document has been published on the official website. It does not have details of the study protocols or data generated, on which feedback is being sought.”
Describing GM mustard as a Trojan Horse for other GMOs, the Coalition for a GM-free India, an informal network of advocacy groups, has alleged that the field tests were fraudulent, unscientific, inadequate and unreliable. It said there was evidence that various tests required to assess risks and impact had not been performed and the claims of yield increase were rigged.
A public interest document issued by the group said the government was seeking the environmental release of GM mustard without declaring it as a herbicide tolerant (HT) crop. “Use of HT crops results in more herbicide use and higher toxic residues in food, it prevents mixed cropping, and damages crops in neighbouring farms.”
The coalition said the biotech regulator had allowed the crop developers to prescribe test protocols for themselves and failed to publish the results for public scrutiny.
Calling for the publication of the full biosafety data on the website, Programme Director, Thanal, R.Sridhar said, “The government cannot expect every citizen to visit the ministry to access the data. Why have all these restrictions? What is the government hiding?”
Noting that the 30 days given for submission of feedback was totally inadequate, Mr. Sridhar demanded extension of the deadline to 90 days from the day the full biosafety dossier was published on the website.