Centre bats for genetically modified mustard before Supreme Court (SC)
Supreme Court that genetically modified (GM) mustard will contribute to India’s self-sustenance with respect to production of edible oil
NEW DELHI: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that genetically modified (GM) mustard will contribute to India's self-sustenance with respect to production of edible oil and it will go a long way in realizing the vision of 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'.
Recently, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) allowed the environmental release of GM mustard for seed production and testing. In an affidavit filed before the top court, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said that increased domestic production of edible oil due to deployment of GM mustard hybrids will reduce the dependency on other exporting countries.
The government said the present rate of edible oil consumption in India surpasses the domestic production rate and at present, India meets nearly 55-60 per cent of its edible oil demand through imports. The MoEFCC said the release of GM mustard parental lines would allow public and private organizations to produce productive hybrids of their own and DMH-11 is the first hybrid developed using the barnase/barstar technology, while more will follow. It added that a good pollination control mechanism is a one-time development and developing productive hybrids is a continuous activity that will contribute to enhancing mustard productivity in India.
"This will contribute to India's self-sustenance with respect to production of edible oil and the same shall go a long way in realizing the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat," it added.
Currently, Canada has the largest area under GE rapeseed; in 2021, around 8.64 million hectares of land were sown with GE rapeseeds which besides the barnase, barstar and bar genes, also contain resistance to herbicide glyphosate for low-till cultivation. There are no reports of any effect of GE rapeseed, said the government.
It added that India imports about 55,000 MT of canola oil largely from GM canola seeds and similarly nearly 2.8 lakh tons of soybean oil is being imported annually, which largely comprises GM soybean oil. The government said as India is importing and consuming oil derived from GM crops, opposition to such technology based on such unfounded fears of adverse impact is only hurting the farmers, consumers, and the industry.
The application seeking moratorium on the release of GM mustard was moved by activists led by Aruna Rodrigues through advocate Prashant Bhushan, who filed a petition in 2016 and then in 2021 opposing open-field trials or commercial release of herbicide tolerant (HT) crops, including GM mustard.
The MoEFCC added that if evidence emerges regarding harmful effects of the approved GE mustard, then the approval could be revoked on the ground of non-compliance of any condition stipulated by the GEAC. The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on November 17. (IANS)