The controversy surrounding the commercialisation of indigenous genetically engineered mustard varieties has further intensified with the advocates and opponents of GM crops reaching out to the policy makers.
Former Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his urgent intervention against commercial release of the engineered oilseeds created by the scientists at Delhi University.
“There is absolutely no need for opting for this unsafe technology since non-GM better performing hybrids and varieties exist. In fact, the very basis on which this GM mustard is being pushed — its yield superiority — has not even been verified by the regulators,” Ramadoss wrote.
However, another lobby group, South Asia Biotechnology Centre, reached out to 750 parliamentarians informing them why the country requires the GM mustard. “Those opposing GE mustard are conspiring to stop Indian mustard farmers from becoming competitive. They are conspiring to keep our farmers poor and to increase India’s dependence on imported GE canola and GE soybean oil,” said the biotech centre in its letter.
It informed the lawmakers that its members were willing to meet the MPs personally and brief them about GM mustard and its benefits. The centre was set up by C D Mayee, former director of Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research, one of the laboratories under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, and Bhagirath Choudhary, national coordinator for international service for acquisition of agri-biotech applications, a biotech industry supported forum for South East Asia.
“India is a major importer of GE canola (Canadian mustard) oil and GE soybean oil. India has been consuming GE cotton oil produced domestically by our cotton farmers for the past 14 years. We consume approximately 50 lakh tons of GE edible oil as cooking oil every year. GE Indian mustard oil is no different from imported GE canola and soybean oils,” it noted.
The beekeepers too threw their hats in the ring, protesting against GM mustard. “We produce around 90,000 tonnes of honey, out of which around 35,000 tonnes are exported at an estimated value of Rs 750 crore. Almost 50-60% of total honey produced in India is mustard honey. GM mustard will jeopardise this sector completely,” said an officer from the confederation of the beekeeping industry, Devvrat Sharma.