A fresh controversy on the possible approval of genetically modified mustard has been stoked by the recent turn of events. To begin with, there has been an online petition against its approval by Dr Vandana Shiva, the well-known anti-GM Crops activist. That was followed by protests from groups like Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Activists claim that the non-transgenic seeds too provide higher productivity, and that the genetically modified seeds will pose severe health hazards like male sterility and other problems to both people and the environment. They call it losing of seed sovereignty and paving the way for backdoor entry of MNCs that are into GM crops.
At the same time, the biotech industry under the banner of Association of Biotech Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) has been vocal on pro-GM Mustard stance. Besides that many farmer groups too have voiced their support. The argument here is that the science can't be stopped and the agriculture has to be empowered through technology to prepare for future.
"The protest by some of these ill-informed groups implies that they do not even want a scientific review of the research. All we are saying is that let GEAC make a decision. Protesting against a technology without letting the regulators review the efficacy and safety is not right. In any case, we would like to highlight that genetically modified food has been consumed for over two decades across the world and not even a single case of adverse effect has been reported," says Dr Shivendra Bajaj, executive director, ABLE-AG.
Meanwhile, the union government clearly appears to be again walking on a tightrope. The agriculture ministry and science and technology ministry have been voicing their open support but the final decision on environmental clearance lies with the concerned ministry.