Senior advisor to Indian government think tank says there are genuine concerns about GM mustard
The “NITI Aayog”, whose cautious views on GM mustard are presented below, is the National Institution for Transforming India, the main think tank of the government of India.
GM mustard cultivation: Government taking caution despite GEAC approval
By Manish Anand, Express News Service
The New Indian Express, 20 May 2017
Even while the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has given its approval to the GM Mustard, the government does not appear enthused, as a senior advisor of the NITI Aayog said that the genuine concerns override the benefits, which warrant much wider consultation before any final decision is taken on the contentious issue.
“The GM Mustard will give just about 20 per cent more yields whereas there are varieties developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) with much more yield potentials without carrying the risks as attached to the genetically modified crops. The GEAC should have held consultations with more scientists and other professionals before giving its approval,” said Dr T Haque, Advisor, NITI Aayog.
Stating that biodiversity should be the top most concerns, Haque told EXPRESS that the Indian experience with Bt Cotton has been quite disappointing, as about 30 varieties of cotton have gone out of cultivation.
“The Bt Cotton came with the claims that it was resistant to the American bollworm pest. But farmers in Punjab found that the Bt Cotton was struck by the white flag posts, which led to a severe loss to the cultivators,” said Haque, while arguing that biodiversity must be preserved to ensure farmers from uncertain future developments.
Incidentally, India is not yet self-sufficient in edible oils and spends substantial forex in imports to meet the demand within the country. But Haque says that the use of biotechnology in seed development could give the farmers high yielding hybrid seed varieties without making them solely dependent on the corporate enjoying monopoly.
“Besides the issue of biodiversity, health and environmental concerns just cannot be ignored while adopting the GM crops. There are genuine concerns of health safety as well. Also, making farmers captive to a corporate house is against the agricultural interests of the country. The farmers should be made stakeholders in seed development with sharing of patents with them, which could be done by forging a partnership with agricultural research institutions,” said Haque.
Incidentally, the “Three Years Action Plan” of the NITI Aayog has also stated that the “widespread concerns with respect to the GM crops cannot be ignored”. The document has advocated the use of alternative technology to push the high agricultural productions in the country.
With clear voices emerging out of the NITI Aayog against the immediate of the rollout of GM Mustard, which has been developed by Delhi University, the government, sources said, the government will be extra-cautious in taking any step.