The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) on Thursday recommended the commercial release of a high-yielding genetically modified (GM) mustard variety, DMH-11, developed by Delhi University scientists. This would be the third GM crop after Bt cotton and Bt brinjal to be approved by the regulator. While Bt cotton has been cultivated in the country since 2002, Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop okayed by GEAC, never hit the fields as an indefinite moratorium was imposed on its commercial release in early 2010 by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
In September last year, a technical sub-committee, which was formed in early 2016 by GEAC to re-evaluate the biosafety data of DMH-11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11), said that the GM mustard variety ‘doesn’t raise any public health or safety concerns for human beings or animals with respect to overall nutritional characteristics’.
According to industry body Association of Biotech Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group, the GM mustard variety has
the potential to increase the yield by more than 25%, and thereby reduce the country’s edible oil import bill. The country’s rapeseed-mustard seed production was reported at 7.9 million tonnes in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June).
Sources told FE, with the GEAC giving its nod, the environment minister Anil Madhav Dave would now have to take a final call on the commercial release of the GM mustard seed, developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, Delhi University- South Campus. The environment ministry had informed the Supreme Court in October last year, which is hearing a case on commercial release of GM mustard, that without apex court’s nod, the government would not go ahead and approve the seed.
The environment ministry had received more than 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website.
Although GEAC has approved field trials of several GM crops, here has not been much headway because of lack of No-Objection Certification by states. Meanwhile, Supreme Court is also hearing a petition on commercial release of GM crops.