Cliff-hanger on India’s GM mustard

India’s face-off between anti- and pro-GM groups on the country’s genetically modified mustard is in its final stages.

The deadline for public feedback on the country’s GM mustard. developed by a team of geneticists from Delhi University South Campus, and led by former Delhi University Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental is over.  It is reported to improve yields by 25 per cent. It would cut India’s reliance on costly edible oil imports. It uses  the same three genes used to engineer the new crop are already in GM rapeseed oil used in Canada, US and Australia.

The mustard is now waiting in the wings for clearance. India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) released its biosafety review in September, finding no “measurable risk, for sustained use of the technology”.

But battle lines have been hardening between biotechnologists and environmentalists, farmers lobbies, and extreme right-wing organisations that support prime minister Narendra Modi’s government. There have been online petitions for a ban  Will the government stick to its mantra about the power of technology to boost the nation?

GM crops have been hotly disputed in India. Monsanto’s Bt cotton is the only GM crops approved for cultivation so far.

In 2010, India’s then environment minister Jairam Ramesh imposed a two-year moratorium on GM aubergene (eggplant, brinjal). The moratorium has continued ever since.

Will the GM mustard too go the eggplant way? Watch this space.

Read my report in New Scientist :

and my report in Guardian :

 

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