Green ministry reissues GM mustard FAQs 

Anti-GM groups argue conflict of interest in Harsh Vardhan's appointment as he holds S&T portfolio

After withdrawing it for a few days, the ministry of environment and forests has brought back its ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (and Answers) list on genetically modified (GM) mustard. These say that safety of should be assessed case by case, and that those in the international markets have passed all safety tests. 

These FAQs were withdrawn hours after it was issued, days after the (GEAC) under the ministry recommended approval be given for commercial cultivation. The reason given was spelling and grammatical mistakes (the name of the main applicant for was mispelt).

The FAQs were brought back as a new environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, till now only minister for science & technology and earth sciences, took charge on Monday, following the demise of Anil Madhav Dave. Vardhan has to now decide on the GEAC recommendation.

Anti-GM crop activists asked that Vardhan exercise "supreme objectivity" on decisions regarding the matter, claiming it was "unacceptable conflict of interest" that he also held the science and technology portfolio.

In a letter to Vardhan, they claimed that according to some who were close to Dave, the latter was not in favour of approving and was in fact considering resigning as an alternative. They asked Vardhan to reject GM mustard, claiming it was a "hazardous scientific fraud being perpetuated on the nation, with taxpayer funds. This is simply unacceptable". 

The letter was from a 'Sarson Satyagraha', describing itself as a broad platform of hundreds of organisations representing farmers, scientists and others.

The body said that it would like to see "lasting, farmer-controlled, farmer-friendly solutions", rather than "hazardous, irreversible and uncontrollable" technologies, deployed in an "unscientific and unaccountable" manner.

Their letter hoped that as a medical doctor, Vardhan would understand the risks involved in a herbicide tolerant Genetically Modified Organism entering the food and farming systems.

"Over the past several months, we have meticulously analysed and showed scientific evidence on the falsehoods related to claims, both of its benefits and safety," added the letter.

23 MAY 2017


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