Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Monday said his ministry does not have any reservations over genetically modified (GM) high-yielding variety of mustard, recently cleared by Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for commercial cultivation, while environment ministry is yet to give its nod.
However, he stated that the agriculture ministry would take measures to augment mustard production once GM mustard variety — Dhara Mustard Hybrid(DMH)-11, developed by Delhi University scientists, is notified by environment ministry for cultivation.
“Whatever crops are notified, be it GM or non-GM, if scientists approve it, then our ministry’s mandate is to increase production, productivity, bring down cost of production and ensure right price to farmers” Singh said at a press meet to mark three years of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
Agriculture secretary Shobhana K Pattanayak said, “GEAC has given approval to GM mustard but we will see after the crop is notified.The process takes time and definitely it will not be available for cultivation this year.”
Meanwhile, an environment official in a written statement to FE had stated that while recommending the environmental release of GM mustard, GEAC has proposed certain post release monitoring studies like study on honeybees, pollinators and honey and a study on soil micro flora to be undertaken by the applicant as post release stewardship measures.
On commercialisation strategy for GM mustard variety, the environment ministry has stated “the developer has submitted a commercialisation strategy and is yet to formalise the same in view of their limited resources for scaling up. This commercialisation strategy would be done in consultation with department of biotechnology and ministry of agriculture as this technology was funded by the government.”
On May 11, GEAC had recommended the commercial release of a high-yielding mustard variety — DMH 11. 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.
With the GEAC giving its nod, the new environment minister Harsh Vardhan would now have to take a final call on the commercial release of the GM mustard seed as earlier environment minister Anil Madhav Dave passed away last week.
Although GEAC has approved field trials of several GM crops, there 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.
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 had 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).