The technical sub-committee set up by environment’s ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has concluded that a genetically modified variety of mustard – DMH – 11 developed by scientists of Delhi university, is ‘safe’ for both human and animal health.
The sub-committee, which was formed earlier this year to re-evaluate the biosafety data of the DMH-11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) has said that the genetically modified variety did not ‘raise any public health or safety concerns for human beings or animals with respect to overall nutritional characteristics’. The sub-committee also has found that the DMH-11 has ‘nil’ or ‘negligible’ risk on all the criteria it examined, and its impacts were very similar to the non-GM usual mustard already been grown in India.
“From the compositional analysis studies, it is clearly evident that GE (genetically-engineered) parents are substantially equivalent to their non-GE comparators in terms of key parameters such as oil, protein, carbohydrate, glucosinolate, erucic acid, fatty acids etc…….. Also, hybrid DMH-11 is very similar, in its composition, to the commercially cultivated varieties in India which have a history of safe use,” the committee has stated.
Meanwhile, environment ministry in a statement on Monday evening said ‘the document prepared by the sub-committee is hereby placed on the website for comments by stakeholders and general public for a period of 30 days. The comments received will be reviewed by the sub-committee and GEAC prior to taking appropriate decision,’.
The nod from sub-committee is a critical step towards commercial release of genetically modified mustard developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at the Delhi University. However final decision to grant commercial release would be taken by GEAC in consultation with environment ministry. An official said that the comments and suggestions from the public will have to be evaluated by the GEAC to see whether some evidence on bio-safety has been ignored and needs to be examined afresh.
This is the first proposal that has come up before the Modi government after the previous UPA government had put a moratorium on commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal in 2010. Currently, Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation. GM mustard seed, developed by Delhi University, is a herbicide-tolerant variety that claims to increase yield.
According to industry body Association of Biotech Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group, GM mustard has the potential of increasing the yield by more than 25%, which could reduce the country’s import of edible oil. The country’s rapeseed-mustard seed production was reported at 6.8 million tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June).