Mustard oil processors, one of the key three pillars in the entire value chain, want the Government to ensure any new variety, whether genetically modified (GM) or not, should contain the pungency that they claim is not found in varieties developed in other countries. However, they are clear that the success of GM mustard will depend on its acceptability by consumers.
“Even if GM mustard is allowed, it should not be tried in any imported variety as the rapeseed, mainly canola (mustard equivalent) grown in Canada, grown outside India does not have that pungency,” said Babu Lal Data, President of Mustard Oil Processors Association of India. He said as long as consumers have no issue with buying the GM mustard oil, the processors are happy to sell the oil.
Consumers and farmers, the other two pillars of the value chain, will decide the success of GM mustard in India, which is the first genetically-engineered food crop allowed by the Government. The environmental clearance, though paves way for its commercial cultivation, will further depend on a political clearance since objections have started pouring in from friendly organisations of the ruling BJP.
Complaining against the approval by GEAC, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an affiliate of RSS, has written a letter to Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav and requested him to step into this matter with urgency and revisit their (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) mandate. It has also demanded accountability be fixed on implementing “the agenda of non-chemical, self-sustainable agriculture to provide sufficient healthy food to our people with eco-friendly agricultural practices.”
GEAC clears GM mustard, ball now in govt court
First GM approval in 16 years after Bollgard II cotton was cleared in 2006; other crops too get the nod for field trails.
Data said as the food safety regulator, FSSAI has provided for proper labelling norms for GM food items, there could be some resistance from health-conscious people, which may lower the rates of GM mustard oil from normal kachi ghani (processed from traditional expeller) oil. He also said that the demand for kachi ghani mustard oil is always higher and that is the reason why only a very marginal amount of oilseeds (one-tenth) go for making of refined mustard oil.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has said that the GM mustard DMH-11 has the potential to improve mustard yields stagnant at a ton per hectare against the global benchmark of 3 tonnes per hectare. However, agricultural experts said that the popular Giriraj variety has a yield of 2.2 tonnes per hectare and the RS 749 variety by Hisar has 2.8 tonnes per hectare. The RS 749 could not become popular as it has 150 days duration to mature whereas other varieties have 130-140 days.