- The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s apex regulator for genetically modified seeds, on 11 May 2017 cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in farmers’ fields for 4 years.
- However, the approval is contingent on a final nod from Environment Minister.
- GM mustard would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in Indian farms and would be a gateway for several genetically-modified food crops in the country.
- Bt Brinjal was cleared by GEAC in 2010 but was blocked by the then Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who cited, among other things, a paucity of safety tests.
- Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11), the transgenic mustard in question, has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi Universityled by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project.
- In essence, it uses a system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard — generally a self-pollinating plant — better suited to hybridisation than current methods.
- Activists have however maintained that publicly available data on DMH-11 shows that its yield is no better than existing varieties.