Government finds GM mustard safe, seeks comments

The Union environment ministry has put in the public domain the risk assessment report on Genetically Modified mustard. The report categorically states that the variety does not "pose any risk of causing any adverse effects on human and animal health and safety".

The issue of allowing genetically modified crops in India has been a controversial and politically sensitive one with many activists and farmer groups strongly opposed to it on grounds of such crops allegedly causing huge adverse impact on human and animal health.

The issue is particularly tricky for the Narendra Modi government with RSS-aligned groups like Swadeshi Jagran Manch strongly opposed to GM crops. While a final view on allowing GM mustard is yet to be taken by the Centre, a scientific study that gives a clear go ahead to it will be difficult to ignore, reports The Times of India.

"The document prepared by the subcommittee has been placed on the website for comments by stakeholders and general public for a period of 30 days. The comments received will be reviewed by the sub-committee and GEAC prior to taking appropriate decision," the environment ministry has said in its note seeking public comments.

The report put out in public domain says in its conclusion that " the risk assessment performed after examining and considering the existing information in literature and data provided in the dossier submitted by the developers, against the background of available knowledge in the subject areas, it is clear that GE mustard lines Varuna bn 3.6, EH-2 modbs 2.99 and the hybrid DMH-11 do not pose any risk of causing any adverse effects on human and animal health and safety".

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi South Campus, New Delhi has applied for the approval of environmental release of Genetically Engineered mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and use of parental events (Varuna bn 3.6 and EH-2 modbs 2.99) for the development of new generation hybrids to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), an arm of the environment ministry which is the key authority on GM crop issues.

All genetically engineered organisms and products are regulated in India as per "Rules for Manufacture, Use/Import/Export & Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms/GE organisms or cells, 1989" notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

 As per the provisions of Rules, the biosafety dossier submitted by CGMCP, University of Delhi South Campus had been received by GEAC which then constituted a sub-committee of scientific experts to thoroughly examine the biosafety data submitted by the applicant.

The sub-committee has examined the dossier on food safety, environmental safety, compliance etc. and has prepared a document "Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES)" for Environmental release of GE Mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and use of parental events (Varuna bn3.6 and EH2 modbs 2.99) for development of new generation hybrids.