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AGRICULTURE

GEAC gives nod to commercial production of genetically-modified mustard
Monday, 15 May, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has approved the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) mustard, a crop which been developed by team of scientists from Delhi University (DU).

Experts opined that this was a first step towards allowing GM crops in India. The decision has not been communicated officially yet. According to GEAC, it will now be sent to the ministry of environment for a final nod.

Milind Murugkar, agricultural policy analyst said, “GEAC is the highest regulatory body in India which approves GM crops for commercial release after several tastings and trials. The approval given by the committee for GM mustard should be endorsed by the government.”

“GM is a part of the food chain in India, as the country has been consuming imported edible oil such as soybean. The cotton seed oil produced in India is also produced by GM cotton seed,” he added.

Murugkar said, “There has always been concern at the global level regarding the health and environment issues related with GM foods.”

“However, there is not a single case of an adverse effect reported till date by the consumption of GM foods,” he added.

“In India, the production of edible oil is very low, and hence, a significant portion of India’s consumption is that of imported oil,” Murugkar stated.

However, GM technology is being fiercely contested by several organisations like the Bharatiya Kissan Sangh, which believe that GM seeds are not good for health.  

MIT scientist Shiva Ayyadurai’s research, done last year, also raised questions on the functionality of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and their impact on plant behaviour.

His research showed that the GMOs have a bad impact on the molecular system of plant, which results into excessive accumulation of formaldehyde, which is classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure.

Further, there is a case also pending in the Supreme Court on the issue. Meanwhile, Murugkar said, “Any technology needs to be assessed  with precaution, and our decision should be guided by evidence.”

“The benefits of GM technology is that it helps in enhancing the productivity, and hence, can have a big dent on rural poverty,” he added.

“BT cotton is a good example, as the production and productivity of cotton has increased since the arrival of BT cotton in 2002,” Murugkar added.
 
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