Central regulator makes safety documents on controversial GM mustard public

NEW DELHI: Days after approving safety documents of its sub-committee on genetically modified (GM) mustard, the central biotech regulator on Monday brought out its details in public domain and sought comments of stakeholders on the issue within 30 days.

Accordingly, all the stakeholders including biotech experts, environmentalists, farmers and even general public can send their comments to the regulator – Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee ( GEAC) – by October 5.

The GEAC will take its final call on the issue only after analysing those comments.

Uploading the document, prepared by the sub-committee, on the environment ministry’s website for a period of 30 days, the ministry in its note on Monday said, “The comments received will be reviewed by the sub-committee and GEAC prior to taking appropriate decision”.

The ministry will receive comments (written submissions) through email in the prescribed format at mustard.mef@gov.in. “Submissions will be received up to the close of working hours (5.30 PM) on October 5”, said the ministry.

The ministry also made available “full biosafety dossier submitted by the applicant” in the GEAC Secretariat at the ministry at V-232, Second Floor, Vayu Block, Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, Jorbagh, New Delhi-110 003.

“Any person interested in studying the same can access the dossier during working hours in person by prior appointment during the public consultation period”, said the official note, released on Monday.

The move of the ministry is a step closer to the GEAC’s final call on the fate of GM mustard in India. The environmentalists and anti-GM groups had been demanding the ministry to make all those documents including dossier on biosafety details public.

The GEAC under the Union environment ministry has been appraising the application, seeking environmental release commercialisation of the transgenic mustard hybrid (DMH-11) of the Delhi University’s institution, for long.

If the decision of the regulator finally goes in favour of the commercial release of the GM mustard, it will be the first food crop to be cleared for cultivation in India. At present, only transgenic cotton (Bt Cotton) is allowed for commercial cultivation in the country.

Earlier during the UPA regime, the central regulator had cleared the BT brinjal for its environmental release, but the environment ministry had then put a moratorium on its commercialisation amid widespread protest against GM food crops.

 The application on GM mustard was submitted by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) of the Delhi University’s South Campus. The institution had applied for the approval of environmental release of Genetically Engineered mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and use of parental events (Varuna bn 3.6 and EH-2 modbs 2.99) for the development of new generation hybrids to the GEAC.

The GEAC had then constituted a sub-committee of scientific experts to thoroughly examine the biosafety data submitted by the applicant.

 “The sub-committee has examined the dossier on food safety, environmental safety, compliance etc. and has prepared a document – Assessment of Food and environmental safety (AFES) – for Environmental release of GE Mustard (Brassica juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and use of parental events (Varuna bn3.6 and EH2 modbs 2.99) for development of new generation hybrids”, said the ministry while making the document prepared by the sub-committee public.

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