The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had submitted that the average prices of refined palm oil, soy oil and mustard oil are increasing continuously and India needs to be independent in oil production to meet the domestic consumption demand in an affidavit that it had filed before the top court.
The ministry told the apex court that mustard is the most important oil and seed meal crop of India, grown in around 8-9 million hectares of land and the approval for the “environmental” release of transgenic mustard hybrid, DMH-11, has been given after a long and exhaustive review process.
“As India is importing and consuming oil derived from GM crops, opposition to such (technologies) based on unfounded fears will only hurt the farmers, consumers, and the industry,” reported PTI citing the affidavit.
The affidavit was filed in response to a plea against the decision of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to approve genetically-modified mustard for commercial cultivation.
The MoEF further stated that cotton grown in the country is a GM crop and India annually produces around 9.5 million tonnes of cotton seed and 1.2 million tonnes of cotton oil.
The affidavit said GM mustard hybrid has shown increased per-hectare yield by 25 per cent to 30 per cent over the traditional varieties and will help reduce India’s dependence on other countries.
The top court had earlier ordered status quo on GEAC’s decision to approve genetically-modified mustard for commercial cultivation.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to ensure that “no precipitative action is taken” until an application filed before it in this regard is heard.
The GEAC, which functions under the Union environment ministry, has recommended the environmental release of GM mustard, which, according to experts, paves the way for its commercial cultivation.
The move comes amid opposition from green groups, which say commercial cultivation of GM mustard could have an adverse impact on human health and food security.
According to the minutes of the October 18 meeting, the GEAC, the country’s regulator for genetically-modified organisms, recommended the “environmental release of mustard hybrid DMH-11 for its seed production and testing as per existing ICAR guidelines and other extant rules and regulations before commercial release”.
The transgenic mustard hybrid, DMH-11, has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) at the Delhi University.
(With inputs from PTI)