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MoEF asked to find out answers on the queries on GM crop

Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi, Aug 27 2017, 21:52 IST
File image for representation. The report said several state governments were opposed to the entry of GM mustard even in the form of field trials, leave alone commercial cultivation.

File image for representation. The report said several state governments were opposed to the entry of GM mustard even in the form of field trials, leave alone commercial cultivation.

With the central government yet to decide on the commercial release of the genetically modified mustard, a Parliamentary committee has asked the Union Environment Ministry to find out answers to several queries on the GM mustard before a decision on the marketing of the transgenic crop is taken.

“In the case of GM mustard, from what one can gather from different quarters, there are serious unanswered questions,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest said in its report on genetically modified crops.

The report said several state governments were opposed to the entry of GM mustard even in the form of field trials, leave alone commercial cultivation.

“The Committee strongly believes that unless the bio-safety and socio-economic desirability, taking into consideration long run effects, is evaluated by a participatory, independent and transparent process and a retrieval and accountability regime is put in place, no GM crop should be introduced in the country,” the report said.

The House committee's cautionary note comes three months after India's top-most regulatory body GEAC approved commercial release of GM mustard – developed by Delhi University scientists – overruling the objections and apprehensions raised by the anti-GM lobby.

However, the environment minister is yet to take a call on thee GEAC decision. Also, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition on the field trials and commercial release of transgenic crops in India.

If approved, GM mustard would be the first genetically engineered food crop in India as the only GM crop approved for cultivation is Bt cotton.

The panel also directed the green ministry to modify the composition of the GEAC. At the moment, two of the three top posts in GEAC are held by the bureaucrats – a practice that didn't find favour with the House committee. The Committee also felt a scientist – rather than a bureaucrat - should head the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

The Parliamentary panel, headed by Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury asked the biotechnology department to fund research on the impacts of GM crops on the environment. “Any scientific research or study to assess the impact of GM on the environment should be funded by the Department of Biotechnology for its sheer credibility,” the report notes.

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