A technical sub-committee of India’s genetic engineering regulator has concluded that a genetically modified variety of mustard, DMH-11, that is currently being examined, is “safe” for being used as food or feed and also for the environment.
The sub-committee, which was formed earlier this year to re-evaluate biosafety data of DMH-11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) amid protests, 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 introduced proteins i.e. Barnase and Barstar are expressed at negligible to non-detectable levels in the edible parts and have been derived from commonly occurring non-pathogenic bacteria. None of the three proteins has been shown to be toxic or allergenic through bioinformatics and acute toxicity studies in experimental animals,” the sub-committee has said. The report was released by the regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which sought suggestions from the public over the next 30 days.
Support from the sub-committee is an important step forward for DMH-11, developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University, but the final nod for commercial cultivation is still some distance away. Suggestions from the public will have to be evaluated by GEAC to see if evidence on bio-safety has been ignored. If there are no such concerns, the GEAC will have to decide whether to recommend DMH-11 for commercial cultivation. The GEAC’s recommendation will then have to be approved by the environment minister whose decision will be final.
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