- Dissent has crept in among agricultural scientists of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) over the possible release of genetically modified mustard.
- In May, NAAS President wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, endorsing DMH-11, a variety of mustard developed by Deepak Pental of Delhi University, a NAAS Fellow, that employs genes from soil bacterium.
- If approved, it would be the first transgenic edible crop to be grown in Indian fields.
- The plant had gone through adequate tests and was declared “safe” and passed regulatory muster.
A dissent note by a member
- However, P.C. Kesavan, also a Fellow of the NAAS, wrote that he disagreed with this endorsement.
- According to him, the resolution of the NAAS is neither scientifically valid, nor ethical, and therefore not maintainable.
Counter arguments to GM Mustard
- DMH-11 is a hybrid variety of mustard developed by crossing a traditional variety of mustard, called Varuna, and an East European variety.
- DMH-11 did not perform as well as several other varieties and mustard hybrids and that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the Environment Ministry body that cleared DMH-11, was riddled by a “conflict of interest.”
- Using genetically-modified technology to produce hybrid seed varieties was a “failed experiment” as evidenced by the experience of Bt cotton.
- Though the latter occupied 95% of India’s acreage, its yields were on the decline since 2006, largely due to insect resistance, and that it nearly tripled the cost of producing cotton between 2006-2013.
- The NAAS — a 625-member body of agricultural scientists — had about 200 scientists in its quorum when it passed a resolution endorsing the GEAC’s decision to clear DMH-11 for commercial field trials.
- The GEAC, India’s apex regulator for genetically modified seeds, had cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in farmer fields on May 11 this year.