Punjab not to allow commercial cultivation of GM mustard


The agriculture department Punjab has decided not to allow commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard (sarson) in the state. Also, the department is not responding to the proposals for permission mooted by the private companies for its commercial cultivation.

However, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is conducting field trials of the GM seeds, initiated by the Indian council for agricultural research (ICAR) – India’s top agricultural research body. The biotechnology department of the Delhi University has produced the GM-mustard.

The move by the PAU has received criticism from different quarters – including the farm bodies, as they say genetically modified seeds in not a solution to the falling yield of the crop.

The university on the other hand says the trials are at a very nascent stage and a report on its results will be sent to the ICAR for analysis for final decision on the matter. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Centre has given a go ahead for commercial cultivation of GM-Mustard

“Some organisations approached us for starting the GM mustard cultivation on commercial lines but we have not responded to their requests as the state government so far has not taken a stand on the matter,” said director agriculture Gurvinder Singh, adding that the department at its level has decided not to allow cultivation as the benefits of the GM crop are still to be known. A formal notification from the state government on the matter is still awaited.

In the kharif sowing next year, the GM mustard crop would not be sown, clarified the officials in the agriculture department, as according to them making the GM crop acceptable to all the stakeholders and most importantly the farmers, is a long process which has many stages. “In the upcoming season we would write to the PAU to know the results of the trials they have conducted and would also question incase they are continuing the trials,” he added.

The officials in the agriculture department are of the view that they want to be sure about the GM mustard does not disturb the normal sarson crop which gives good benefit to the farmers.

According to Ajmer Singh Dhatt, director research PAU, the trials are at a very early stage and the university is taking all precautions so that the trials do not impact the regular crop. The university according to him has not made any recommendations so far. “We will send the trials’ results to ICAR and will wait for its response to take further action,” he added. The trial results are expected in March month.

Dhatt added that the permission from the state government for the ongoing trails by the PAU were not required. Earlier in 2013 to 2015 when initial trials were held, a permission from the state government was taken, he informed.

Last week, speaker Punjab vidhan sabha Kultar Singh Sandhwan held a meeting with the farmers and experts to hold discussions on the matter. In the meeting, a majority of participants had expressed reservations about the new GM crop.

They were apprehensive that the decision to allow the cultivation of GM mustard will boost the dominance of private seed manufacturers in the country. “The GM variety gives hybrid seeds due to which fresh seeds are to be bought at time of sowing. The farmers can’t retain their crop to be used as seeds in the next season,” said Jagmohan Singh general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan union (Dakounda). The higher yield claims made on GM mustard variety is still to be proved, he added.

“The GM variety of BT-cotton is a tried and tested example, every time the farmers had to buy new seeds,” said an official of state department. They demanded that agriculture universities and research institutions in the country should conduct more field demos and trials of GM mustard hybrid DMH-11 before making it available for commercial use.

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