The GM mustard debate

Source: The post is based on an article “The GM mustard debate” published in The Indian Express on 7th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and Technology

Relevance: concerns associated with GM crops

News: The government had cleared the environmental release of a genetically modified (GM) variety of mustard, DMH-11, recently which has been opposed by the activists and the matter has reached the court.

Why is the government trying to release GM mustard?

There has been a significant rise in the import bills of the edible oils which has led to a shoot up in the price of edible oils causing a food security issue in India.

Therefore, the government is trying to reduce the dependence on other countries and save its forex reserves.

It has said that approving the GM mustard variety would not lead to opening of the gates for all other transgenic crops.

For example, there has been no progress in the case of Bt brinjal which has passed all the safety tests and regulatory processes.

However, environmental activists and NGOs have opposed the efforts of the government.

They question biosafety data and claim that it will harm human and soil health, cause environmental damage, and threaten the existence of other species, like honeybees.

What are the arguments that favours GM crops?

Oppositions to GM crops rely on the precautionary principle.

This principle argues that new innovations may have severe impacts on human or environmental health in the absence of scientific consensus and adequate information.

However, simply relying on this principle does not hold true for GM crops.

GM crops have been under cultivation for almost three decades in different parts of the world. There is little evidence to justify the dangers that are being highlighted.

Countries such as the United States and Canada, Brazil. South Africa, and India’s neighbours like Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh are already growing GM crops.

Even in India, Bt cotton has been in cultivation for two decades and there has not been any such concerns with it.

Moreover, a certain portion of imported edible oils as well as some other crops are genetically modified varieties which have already been consumed by Indians without any harm.

Further, as per the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), arguments made against GM mustard are totally unscientific and fallacious.

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