Friday 26 May 2017 News Updated at 03:05 AM IST
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Adopt GM mustard to boost farm yield - Deccan Herald
Adopt GM mustard to boost farm yield
DH News Service,
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The government now has to take a decision on commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) mustard, after the recent recommendation made by Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). The GEAC is the government's technical body which examines the safety of GM crops. The government is not bound to accept its recommendation but there are strong reasons why it should not reject it too. The UPA government had in 2010 refused to accept the GEAC recommendation for commercialisation of Bt brinjal and put a moratorium on it. The main reason was that Bt brinjal was a food crop, and unlike Bt cotton which has been cultivated successfully in the country for many years, it may have implications on the health of the people. But this and many other questions about GM crops have been adequately answered. The UPA government, perhaps, erred on the side of caution but it may be time to review the decision.

India imports large quantities of edible oils. A good part of it is made from GM crops like transgenic soyabean. Cottonseed oil made from Bt cotton is also widely consumed in the country. The opposition, therefore, to oil made from GM mustard is difficult to understand. GM mustard has been indigenously developed by scientists at the Delhi University, so there is no scope for the apprehension that farmers will be at the mercy of multinationals like Monsanto which will control the supply of seeds or otherwise exploit the farmers. There is the need to increase India's edible oil production as the country is largely dependent on imports to meet the rising demand. GM mustard has been proven to increase yields by 30% and will reduce farming costs. It has been declared ready for commercial use after years of extensive tests in labs and on farms. All the safety-related data has also been placed in the public realm for scrutiny.

The government will have to await the decision of the Supreme Court which is hearing a case on the matter. It is likely to come under pressure from several interest groups which are opposed to GM crops for different reasons. These include the likes of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch which are ideologically close to the BJP. To give more credibility to decisions relating to safety and other issues concerning GM crops and their technology, the government can set up an independent regulatory body in place of or in addition to the GEAC. However, this should not be a ruse to delay decisions. The country needs to increase its agricultural production and GM crops can enable this. It is unwise to reject them without convincing grounds.

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