Rajasthan Agri Minister and Experts fight over GM mustard

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Rajasthan Agri Minister and Experts fight over GM mustard

Naleen Kumar
Jaipur | 25 March 2017

Amidst heated arguments between Rajasthan’s Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini and agri experts over the introduction of genetically modified (GM) mustard, Minister made his stand clear in favour of GM free mustard while the experts argued that GM Mustard is the way forward to increase productivity of oil seeds and edible oil, and income of the farmers. Minister made his stand clear in his address at the SEA’s (Solvent Extractors Association) Rapeseed-mustard conclave held in Jaipur yesterday.

Speaking to Agri Nation, Minister said, “Agriculture is state subject. Genetic Engineering Approval Committee advises government on genetic research and genetic trials. In Rajasthan, we are not in favour of GM crops because the traditional seeds give more production as compared to GM seeds. Therefore, it is not good to interfere with nature. He said oil content of traditional mustard variety seed is 40-42 % and urged scientists to develop variety of mustard which has more oil content.

However, agri experts and industry differed with the minister. Atul Chaturvedi, CEO Agro Business, Adani Group and President SEA, expressed concern over oil seed production that has remained stagnant in last 10-15 years. He said, “Currently, the growing demand for edible oil is being met by importing it and almost 70 percent of the edible oil is imported. Therefore, it is high time for the government to focus on increasing the oil seed production. It would be wise to concentrate on mustard seed as it has high oil content. If there is an increase of 10 MT of mustard it would mean 4MT of oil. But, if this is not achieved, the situation will become critical and India will be importing 25 MT by 2025. So, policy makers must address it on priority”.

Dr Deepak Pental, Professor of Genetics and Director, Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi, while speaking on ‘GM Mustard Seed-Pros and Cons’, said ” It is unfortunate that while Europe produce about 80 % of their mustard oil from GM mustard followed by China and Canada which produce about 70 % of oil from GM mustard, we are still debating about it. He said these technologies have been adapted by other countries almost 20 years ago and we have been importing that edible oil for all these years”. He emphasized that hybrid seed with inbuilt disease resistant trait is the need of the hour”.

Bhagirath Chaudhary, Director of South Asia Bio Technology Centre, said, “It is impossible to increase production without genetic improvement. We are importing 15 million tones mustard oil from countries which produces its oil from GM oilseeds but we are not ready to allow this variety to farmers in the country which would reduce our edible oil imports. Denying breakthrough technology to famers is an injustice to them as wells the country”.