Green body protests GEAC nod for GM mustard

A day after India's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee gave its approval for the commercial use of GM mustard, activists today asked the government to reject the proposal and dissolve the GEAC immediately.

The 'Coalition for a GM-Free India', a platform of hundreds of organisations representing farmers, consumers, and scientists, wrote to union environment minister Anil Dave expressing "disappointment and shock" over the approval by the bio-tech regulator.

They demanded the regulatory body be immediately dissolved given its "repeated unaccountable functioning".

The GEAC had on Friday recommended the commercial use of genetically modified mustard in a submission to the environment ministry amid opposition by anti-GM groups, including RSS-affiliated bodies.

Dave has still to take the final call on approval of GM mustard. Ministry sources told PTI that although they were expecting the approval from the minister today itself, the process has been delayed by a week.

Moreover, whether the crop is commercially released for cultivation also depends on the Supreme Court, which is hearing a case seeking a moratorium on the commercial release of the crop. (See: GM mustard gets regulatory approval, awaits SC nod)

In their letter to Dave, the anti-GM coalition said, "By clearing GM mustard, the GEAC has shown itself to be anti-science, anti-farmers, anti-environment and anti-consumers.

"We appeal to you to summarily reject the application for approval of GM mustard. We also urge you to dissolve the GEAC immediately, given their repeated unaccountable functioning."

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids.

With its clearance, the GEAC has pushed the hybrid plant developed by scientists at the Delhi University closer to becoming the country's first edible GM crop.

"The GEAC is a compromised body, which works only for corporate interests. Every word of their safety dossier was prepared by corporations.

"And in fact most of the members of the GEAC have been directly associated with corporates and lobby groups and now are only serving to promote their corporate interests," the letter to Dave said.

The coalition also said the GM mustard is a "hazardous" herbicide-tolerant food crop, which will adversely affect a large number of Indian farmers, agricultural workers and consumers.

It said it has previously shown, through rigorous analysis of all available materials, how it will increase chemicals in food and farms and how regulators should have never allowed it to proceed this far.

"The appraisal was shoddy while the tests were rigged and many tests not taken up. The need for GM mustard was never questioned and answered.

"The GEAC has ignored all the many valid questions raised by scientists and others and chose to function in an unscientific and biased fashion. Importantly, there was no integrity apparent in the processes adopted," the coalition said in a statement.

"There is absolutely no reason, not a single one, why the GEAC should have recommended this for approval. Herbicide Tolerant crops increase chemical usage.
"Our conservative estimates show that even 25 per cent adoption of GM mustard in India's mustard cultivation area will lead to more than 4 crore employment days being lost by poor women in mustard growing areas, which are mainly BJP- ruled states," the coalition said.