Last month, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee or GEAC recommended the commercialization of the genetically modified mustard seeds developed by a team of scientists led by former Delhi University VC Deepak Pental.
But the government is yet to give a final go ahead for farmers to grow. "Productivity has gone up by 25 per cent as seen in trials. GM mustard in the form of Canula has been consumed by us for the past 10 years,"said Dr T Mahapatra, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
This defense by the scientific community comes soon after Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concerns about GM Mustard's impact on human health.
Activists advocating traditional variety of seeds for farmers too demand a rethink on going ahead with GM Mustard. "Like Monsanto made huge profits with BT Cotton, similar issues will crop here too," says an activist Jacob Nellithanam, Bharat Beez Swaraj Manch.
A few years ago, concerns over the health impact of genetically modified brinjal prevented the government from introducing it for mass cultivation. The decision regarding mustard too won't be easy.