New Delhi: Civil society groups including Coalition for a GM-free India Friday asked the government not to approve commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard because of biosafety and health concerns.
The resistance against the GM crop is growing as there are reports that the regulator GEAC might consider the application filed by scientists of the Delhi University's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) seeking permission for GM mustard commercialisation, they said.
The Centre has so far permitted commercial cultivation of Bt cotton but imposed moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal in February 2010 due to concerns aired by NGOs.
Briefing media, NGO Coalition for a GM-free India Kavitha Kuruganti said: "The regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) continues to be opaque and non-transparent in its functioning. There is fear GEAC might approve the GM mustard without assessing whether such an alternative technology is required and risk factors".
Approval of GM mustard will jeopardize the traditional varieties and leave farmers dependent solely on private companies for such seeds, she said, adding that the food security arguments around the GM crops are untenable.
There are still unresolved biosafety, health and environmental concerns around the GM crops, she said.
Kuruganti said the DU scientists moved the application seeking approval for GM mustard commercialization with the regulator GEAC under the Environment Ministry in September. Its
field trials has already been conducted in Punjab.
Noting that there is tremendous rejection of GM crops in the country, one of the organisers of 'Sarson Satyagraha' Abhishek Joshi said, "As in the case of Bt brinjal, GM mustard also has not found support from state governments."
States such as Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, which are the leading mustard growing states and also BJP-ruled states had even denied permission to do field trials of the GM mustard, he added.
Pointing out that there is inadequacy in the safety assessment around GM crops, health expert Mira Shiva of the NGO 'Doctors for Food Safety and Biosafety' said: "The lack of safety of GMOs has been proven time and again. Unfortunately, GEAC continues to act like a promoter of GMOs instead of being a responsible regulator."
She also alleged that "Conflict of interest continues to be pervasive in the regulatory body. It not only has inadequate biosafety assessment system but also hides such studies from public, even when asked under RTI."
Former Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and several farmers body Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh and the Right to Food Campaign have made representation to the government opposing the GM mustard, she added.
India's rapeseed-mustard seed production was 63.09 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 crop year (July-June).