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Nod for GM mustard is a ‘scientific sham’

A file photo of a protest against GM mustardin Delhi.

A file photo of a protest against GM mustardin Delhi.  

Country faces no shortage, says expert

Environmentalists and food experts have termed a “scientific sham” the GM crop regulator’s clearance for the commercial use of the genetically modified mustard and have vowed to move court, if need be.

On May 11, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared the commercial cultivation of GM mustard. Now, the Union Ministry for Environment has to take the final decision.

“The GEAC’s recommendation is shocking. It has failed to act as per its mandate: to protect citizens from the risks posed by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We will move court if approval is given by the Ministry,” Umendra Dutt, member of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, told The Hindu .

‘Women will be hit hard’

Mr. Dutt said GM mustard is a herbicide-tolerant crop. Such crops would increase the use of chemicals and of which cultivation would affect a large number of farmers, farmworkers and consumers.

“Furthermore, allowing the cultivation of GM mustard would amount to a direct attack on women involved in the mustard crop ‘weeding.’ Our conservative estimates show that even 25% adoption of GM mustard in India would lead to the loss of over 4 crore employment days,” he said. GM mustard cultivation would not require ‘weeding.’

“In its election manifesto, the BJP promised that it would not allow GM food crops without a long-term scientific evaluation. Hence, the Ministry of Environment should reject the GEAC’s recommendation,” said Mr. Dutt, adding that the episodes of herbicide drifts destroying crops in neighboring fields and leading to farmer-to-farmer litigations in U.S. courts is well documented. “One can imagine the disaster that lies in store in India with its small landholdings, on this front,” he said.

Food and agricultural policy analyst Devinder Sharma called a ‘scientific sham’ the assertion that the GM mustard variety DMH-11 — for which the Ministry’s approval is pending — will boost production and help India cut edible oil import costs. The country suffered from no mustard shortage, he said, and if the government wanted to cut edible oil import costs, it should increase import tariffs.

“Let’s have a public dialogue on GM mustard before the final decision as was done for Bt cotton.

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