Today's Paper

No nod yet for GM mustard

NEW DELHI Nov. 7. The move to introduce a genetically modified mustard seed for commercial cultivation suffered a setback today with the Central Government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee unanimously deciding to defer a decision on the ground that more time was required to study, analyse and interpret the data provided by the company that has developed it.

The 21-member high-power panel, which includes representatives of the Environment, Health and other Ministries, decided after a three-hour meeting that while in respect of some parameters the data was inadequate, with regard to several others they were not conclusive enough.

Sources said that despite explanations by the representatives of the company, Pro-Agro, several members had doubts over the health and safety aspects. They were particularly concerned that unlike in the West, the leaves of the mustard plants were also eaten in several parts of the country as a vegetable. In Punjab in particular, sarson ka saag (a preparation made from mustard leaves) was a delicacy. Also, there was concern over the possibility of the foreign genes in the GM plant getting transported to other mustard varieties grown in neighbouring farmlands and contaminating them.

The Chairman of the panel and Additional Secretary in the Union Environment Ministry, A.M. Gokhale, told The Hindu that the panel unanimously felt that in view of the complex issues involved with regard to the environment and human health, more time was needed to study, analyse and interpret the data made available by the company before a decision on approval was taken. The matter would be taken up for further discussion after three or four weeks.

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