GM regulator wants one more round of field trial

The purpose is to generate additional data on the effect of GM mustard on honey bees and other pollinators as well as on honey and microbial diversity.

India's regulator of genetically modified products has ordered one more round of field trials for the controversy-ridden indigenous GM mustard.

But the decision taken by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee under the Union environment ministry failed to impress the anti-GM lobby that demanded a wider review of the contentious crop developed by scientists at Delhi University.

In its last meeting on March 21, the GEAC asked DU's Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants to undertake field trials in an area of 5 acres at two to three different locations.

The purpose is to generate additional data on the effect of GM mustard on honey bees and other pollinators as well as on honey and microbial diversity.

The scientists have been asked to submit a detailed protocol (for the trial) that needs to be approved by the GEAC before the evaluation starts, according to the minutes of the GEAC meeting, released last week.

The commercialisation of genetically engineered mustard remained one of the most controversial proposals in the last two years because of strident opposition from the anti-GM activists.

The activists denounced the scientific reports in favour of the engineered oilseed and produced documents, questioning the scientific claims and evaluation results.

The researchers, on the other hand, rubbished the documents produced by the non-governmental organisation.

A parliamentary panel in August 2017, 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 was taken.

Within weeks, the National Academy of Agriculture Sciences led its weight behind the commercial release of the transgenic crop.

In its March meeting, GEAC admitted to having received several representations from the critics of GM mustard but reiterated that the issues flagged in those representations were deliberated extensively in the past.

The activists are unhappy with the latest GEAC decision.

"GEAC went about the re-examination of the environmental release application of GM mustard in a completely facetious and non-serious way, and has not taken up any serious review of the entire matter of environmental clearance of GM mustard," Kavitha Kuruganti, co-convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India – an alliance of anti-GM outfits – wrote in a protest letter to GEAC chairperson A K Mehta.

 

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GM regulator wants one more round of field trial

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