Put on hold

GM mustard launch deferred

Published: Saturday 30 November 2002

for those rallying against the entry of genetically modified (gm) mustard in India, there is good news. At least for the time being. After mulling over the issue of granting permission for cultivation of transgenic mustard in India for long, the Union government has now decided to postpone the approval.

The inter-ministerial genetic engineering approval committee (geac), the nodal agency to clear all gm products in India decided to have "a good hard look" at the existing data before approval. The decision was taken at its 34 th meeting held in New Delhi. The data was furnished by Haryana-based ProAgro Seeds Company owned by multinational biotech giant Bayer Cropscience. ProAgro had applied for a licence to market its hybrid mustard, which it claims to have developed through genetic modification. After a three-and-a-half-hour marathon meeting, geac chairperson A M Gokhale revealed that the discussion about gm mustard remained inconclusive and might be taken up later. gm mustard is in the eye of a controversy ever since ProAgro applied for its commercial clearance. Questions have been raised about the possibility of damage to plant productivity and human health owing to the plant's unique reproductive biology. The recent move is similar to geac's bid to buy time before the launch of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton. "The delaying tactics are just to ward-off civil society pressure," says Devinder Sharma, chairperson, New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. However, ProAgro is hopeful of getting the go-ahead from geac soon. But till such time, the fate of the 'controversial' mustard in India remains uncertain.

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