The Times of India on Wednesday reported that the government was not in a hurry to take a call on commercial release of transgenic oilseeds as the concerns expressed by both the anti and pro GM groups were “equally strong” and therefore it needed to be examined thoroughly before arriving at any decision.
“We are not in a hurry to take decision on GM mustard”, Union Environment Minister, Harsh Vardhan reportedly told the Newspaper, emphasising that the government has to look at it in larger interest of the people.
“All the issues are being critically examined. The day we are convinced about it without any confusion, we will take the decision either this way or that way,” the Minister said.
The Minister’s remarks came days after the government told the Supreme Court that it was examining all reports by experts including the one submitted by a parliamentary committee and the nodal regulator for GM crops in India – Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) – before a final decision would be taken.
The parliamentary standing committee on science & technology and environment & forests had last month submitted its report, flagging several loopholes in existing methods of field trials of transgenic crops. It had also asked Environment Ministry to examine the impact of such crops “thoroughly” before taking its final call.
The panel, having representatives from all major political parties including the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, had also expressed its concerns as to how the regulators were predominantly relying on data made available by the applicant of GM crops.
The GEAC had in May given its approval for commercial release of transgenic mustard, developed by a Delhi University institution. A final decision is, however, to be taken by the Environment Ministry.
India imports edible oil of worth rupees over 60,000 crore annually. The pro GM group establishes its argument by saying that GM mustard can increase 25-30 percent yield, thereby reducing the import burden. Similarly, a group of agriculture scientists also make similar claims that similar yield enhancement is possible through cultivating non GM hybrid seeds of mustard thus there is no point to allow genetically modified mustard.
Palm oil comprises 62% of India’s total vegetable oil imports, imported mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Last week WWF-India released a report on the potential of sustainable production palm oil in the southern plateau of India. Before allowing the cultivation of genetically modified mustard, the Government of India needs to explore all the possibilities of increasing edible oil production without putting farmers and farm land “on risk.”