The Centre on Thursday said that it is important for the country to adopt GE technology to ensure food security and cut dependency on imports. In October, government granted environmental clearance for indigenously developed GM mustard seeds.
The Minister of State in the Environment Ministry Ashwini Kumar Choubey said, “Strengthening of plant breeding programs including use of new genetic technologies such as GE Technology is important for meeting emerging challenges in Indian agriculture and ensuring food security while reducing foreign dependency.” The minister was replying to a question regarding GM Mustard in Parliament.
He informed the Rajya Sabha that the total edible oil demand of India is 25.52 million tonnes (2018-19) with domestic availability of 10.35 million tonnes (2018-19). 15.57 million tonnes (60 per cent) of India’s total edible oil demand is met through import.
Before GM Mustard seed was given environmental release, cotton was the only GM crop allowed for cultivation in India.
The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the decision to allow an environmental release of mustard hybrid “DMH-11” for seed production and other tests before commercial release.
Activists have raised concerns that GM mustard would require widespread use of herbicides and pose a threat to honey bees. Today, the minister said that the environmental release would help scientists study any effect of GM mustard on bees and other pollinators. He said, “The use of herbicide will be after obtaining label claim and approval from Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee. The field demonstration studies with respect to the effect of GE mustard on honey bees and other pollinators, shall be conducted post-environmental release.”
Last fiscal year, India spent a record $19 billion importing vegetable oils. India imports edible oil from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Black Sea region.