Exclusive || Environment Ministry approves genetically engineered mustard, Dr. Deepak Pental assures indigensiation will control import expenditure of mustard oil

The Union Environment Ministry has approved the proposal for the commercial cultivation, use and implementation of genetically modified (GM) mustard, confirmed Dr Deepak Pental, 71, a geneticist and former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, under whose guidance the discovery has been made. While speaking exclusively to The Quotes, Dr Pental confirmed that the Environment Ministry had sent him a mail granting landmark approval for genetically modified (GM) mustard cultivation.

Earlier, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which functions under the Union Environment Ministry, cleared the proposal for the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard. Despite clearance from GEAC, the Ministry vetoed it and advised GEAC to hold more studies on the GM crop.

Dr. Deepak Pental talked to The Quotes

In a telephonic conversation with The Quotes, Dr Pental assured that the genetically engineered mustard is well experimented and went through all the required testing over four years at the estimated cost of about eight to nine crores.

“Countries like Canada, the US, and Australia have been using GM for the last twenty years, but grave repercussions or anything serious were reported. GEAC rightly concluded that it does not pose any grave threat to the environment or Indian agriculture,” Dr Pental told The Quotes.

The geneticists further confirmed that the genetically modified mustard would increase the productivity of the mustard in the country, and indigenisation of genetically modified mustard will help us to reduce our dependency on other countries for mustard. Farmers who will use it will directly earn the money which was earlier used to purchase mustard from another country.

A GEAC meeting held on October 18 allowed the environmental release of two varieties of genetically engineered mustard to be used for developing new parental lines and hybrids under the supervision of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR). As published by The Hindu, the minutes of the meeting said, “The environmental release of mustard hybrid Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) for its seed production and testing as per existing ICAR guidelines and other extant rules/regulations prior to commercial release.”

GEAC guidelines for the approval:

Field demonstration studies on the effect of genetically engineered mustard on honey bees and other pollinators were conducted. While considering the application of the Center for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plant, the GEAC instructed a few important conditions for the clearance. First, it stated that approval stands valid for a limited period of four years and is renewable for two years at a time, based on the compliance report. The GEAC further clarified that external experts would visit the growing sites of the crop at least once each season.

“Applicant shall deposit 100 grams each of approved hybrids as well as their parental lines with the ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources and communicate the same to GEAC within 30 days of issue of this clearance letter for purposes of future reference in case of trade, traceability and dispute on account of ownership,” the minutes of the meeting were quoted by The Hindu.

It further claimed that the applicant must develop and deposit the DNA fingerprints of the approved varieties to the ICAR. “Usage of any formulation of herbicides is recommended only under controlled and specified conditions exclusively for hybrid seed production after obtaining label claim and approval from Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee,” it said and added that usage of any formulation of herbicide is not permitted for cultivation in the farmer’s field under any situation. Commercial use of DMH-11 will be subject to the Seed Act and related rules and regulations.

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Voices of dissent:

Although Union Ministry has granted its approval for the cultivation and use of genetically engineered mustard, a lot of voices in dissent have been rising from several quarters. Reports have quoted Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India as she warned the Center against any such approval.

As quoted by The Hindu, she reminded Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav that he himself was against the use of the GM. “What has happened surprised me in its lack of scientific approach or responsible regulation. Nothing has changed since 2017, when GEAC gave its approval to GM mustard commercial cultivation when the regulator gave a green signal, but the ‘competent authority did not clear the decision, i.e., Minister/Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change,” she was quoted in a report published in The Hindu.

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Even RSS-affiliates Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and Bhartiya Kisan Singh demanded the withdrawal of the decision, with the former even writing to the environment minister seeking his intervention to ensure that no transgenic variety of mustard seed is allowed to be planted ‘now or ever due to risks involved in its use.

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