It appears that India will tread cautiously as far as the approval of new GM crops in the country is concerned. Yesterday, Union Environmental Minister Prakash Javdekar said that the government will take decisions regarding the commercial farming of GM mustard only after due deliberations. He was talking after a meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body that clears GM field trials in India.
“Today, the application for commercialization of GM Mustard was there for consideration. We have sought some more information on certain aspects of the data. We will take due deliberations before reaching any decision and will not rush through the decision,” the minister said.
He also clarified that the meeting did not intend to given permission to GM Mustard. “It was a rumour that we were giving permission today. There was no such agenda in the meeting,” he added.
However he was quick to add that the use of science for increasing agricultural productivity can’t be ruled out. “We cannot stop science from progressing. We cannot starve our population. There are other good alternatives of increasing our productivity like organic farming and using biotechnology for farming but at the same time the scientific methods are also important.”
The minister’s remark came amidst protesters staging dharna outside the ministry under the banner ‘Sarson Satyagrah’ and submitted a petition to him demanding that the government should not go ahead with commercialization of GM mustard. Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra also joined the protesters.
RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch is also opposing any move for commercialisation of GM mustard. It has raised several technical issues including fears of cross-pollination between GM and non-GM crops.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court had also sought explanation from the government on its proposed move to introduce GM Mustard.
“Court has asked us information on the issue and we will submit it in 15 days,” the minister said.
Reacting to the allegation by activists and farmers that GEAC is going ahead on the issue in a secretive manner, Javadekar said the details that are legally important are duly provided.
“It is not a cricket match where regular commentary is required. Whatever is legally required is provided through our website,” he said.