It has been over a month since the genetically modified mustard seed was cleared by a committee of experts in the environment ministry. But the big boost these seeds can give Indian agriculture will have to wait, since commercial release is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Former Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental is frustrated. A sub-committee in the environment ministry has ruled that the genetically modified mustard seeds Pental's team has developed is safe for human consumption. But the debate over the long-term impact of genetically modified food products on human health and farmer welfare has thrown the launch of the seed a curve ball.
Scientific data showing the seed has benefits is abundant. The method of deriving these gm mustard seeds has passed peer-review. Been deemed safe for human consumption by a committee of experts. And yields are pegged at 30 percent higher than non-gm seeds. But the anti-gm faction is not impressed and pental argues that the method used to derive these seeds is largely the same as the one used in canola oil, Which incidentally, India imports more than 350,000 tonnes of each year, worth over 10 billion dollars.
Pental adds that the argument that commercial cultivation of gm mustard seeds would make farmers prey to technology patented by global MNCs does not hold water because the patent on this technology has long expired. So, delaying the launch of the seed will only hurt India’s agri-developement, and set science back a few steps.
The final decision on the commercial launch of gm mustard now lies in the lap of the Supreme Court, which will hear the matter on the 24th of October. And with environment minister Anil Dave saying his ministry is yet to give its final approval only adds to the uncertainty.