India gives environmental clearance for genetically modified mustard
A government panel has approved an application seeking environmental clearance of indigenously developed genetically modified mustard seeds, experts said, paving the way for commercial use of the country's first GM food crop. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a unit of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has approved the GM mustard seeds, said a top scientist and an agricultural expert in India.
The lab-altered mustard seeds were developed by Deepak Pental, a scientist and former vice-chancellor of Delhi University, and his team. He said the commercial use of GM mustard seeds would take a couple of years. India is the world's biggest importer of edible oils.
"The decision of GEAC recognises the potential of biotechnology to address the issue of India's growing edible oil imports," said Bhagirath Choudhary, director of the South Asia Biotech Center, a nonprofit scientific society.
Many scientists and agricultural experts have called for faster clearance of GM crops in India, where farms are shrinking due to rapid urbanization and erratic weather patterns threatening the output of staples such as rice and wheat.
India first allowed GM cultivation in 2002 with genetically modified cotton. Apart from GM cotton, New Delhi has not approved any other transgenic crop. GM cotton helped transform India into the world's No. 1 cotton producer and second-largest exporter of the fiber as output jumped fourfold.