Agri-biotechnology Agriculture Policy Briefing

GM Mustard’s Public Health Issues “Adequately Addressed,” Environment Minister Dave Tells Lok Sabha

“All public health-related issues have been adequately addressed for the GM Mustard, through the regulatory pipeline process as per the Rules,” environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told the Lok Sabha on Monday in a written reply to Question No 1091.  GEAC, the regulatory body for genetically-engineered crops, has representatives from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), the bio-medical group of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the ministry of health and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), he said in response to a question by two MPs who wanted scientific evidence and the interests of consumers and farmers to be considered while deciding on regulatory approval for mass cultivation of GM mustard.

“All the members of GEAC and the sub-committee are regularly and actively involved at several stages in assessment of food safety of GM mustard,” the minister added.  NIN, which reports to ICMR, undertook compositional analysis, animal studies and assessment for allergenicity and toxicity, the minister said to underscore that public health impact assessment of the mustard hybrid was independently done.

In response to another question (No 90), Dave said two groups of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which had raised concerns and apprehensions were given time by GEAC on 20 June and 18 July to vent their views. In all 759 comments were received on the abridged bio-safety assessment report which was placed in the public domain for a month till 5 October and 29 persons had seen the full report which was placed in the ministry of environment, the minister said.


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I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?