JD(U) today said the Centre’s move of collecting public feedback on the risk assessment report on GM mustards by an expert committee “reeks of non-serious intent” and demanded that the hybrid variety should not be approved for commercial release.
It argued Indian farmers have proved high yields can be obtained through sustainable agronomic processes and termed as alse the claims of higher yield through the GM mustard. “The three GMOs (genetically modified crops), according to its developers, will have higher yields, but they have been silent about the fact that the GM mustard has been engineered to be herbicide tolerant,” the party said in a letter to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave.
It said there is “enormous evidence” presented to the regulators by civil society groups to prove the higher yields
claim is a “false” claim. Earlier, the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) of Delhi University had applied for Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC’s) approval for environmental release of hybrid DMH-11 for the development of new generation hybrids.
GEAC, the country’s biotech regulator, constituted experts sub-committee to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard. After the committee examined it, the report was placed on the Environment Ministry’s website yesterday inviting comments from stakeholders within a period of 30 days. The party said the GMOs have now been “cleared” by the sub-committee and only an assessment document, and not the full biosafety data, have been put out for public feedback.
“Everything about the process of collecting public feedback reeks of non-serious intent on a biased assessment that is pre-concluded,” JD(U) said. The letter was signed by MP Kaushlender Kumar, secretary Afaq Ahmed Khan and member national executive Aneel Hegde of the party which also held a demonstration at the Environment Ministry today.
JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had recently said he will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi
against commercial cultivation of GM mustard as it’s “not good” for the environment and also mankind. “In view of many issues including problems with the process of development of the GM mustard, lack of stringent regulatory scrutiny and the potential human and animal health issues and environmental problems, we urge that this GM mustard should not be approved for commercial release,” the party said in the letter.
The party asked Dave to ensure GEAC’s current processes are not “farcical” and also sought time with the Minster to discuss the issue in detail. “No study has been done to assess whether there is a need for the product and whether it’s useful for farmers or the consumers. The trait as engineered is to create ease of hybridisation thereby is beneficial only for seed producers,” it said.
Anti-GM activists had yesterday accused the GEAC of undertaking a “meaningless” process of getting public feedback and demanded the full biosafety data be put out in the public domain immediately and at least 90 days time should be givenfor feedback.
“The bar gene in the GM mustard confers herbicide tolerance (HT) trait on the crop. In India various high- powered committees have strongly recommended against the use of herbicide tolerant traits. “This is due to the various serious problems associated with the extensive use of herbicides. Also it is a labour displacing technology,” the party said, adding that many leading mustard growing states have expressly prohibited even the field trials of this GM mustard.
The party said that according to the Swaminathan Task Force on Biotechnology (2004), the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2012) and the majority report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court ( 2013), no genetic modification should be attempted for crops in their centres of origin and diversity.
“Therefore, this GM mustard should under no circumstances be approved for commercial release. In fact even open air field trials of this crop are risky as it could contaminate indigenous mustard varieties. World over the experience with contamination has been very bad,” the party said.