India weighs whether to approve first genetically modifed food crops

© AFP - BIJU BORO

India’s Supreme Court is hearing from activists who want to stop genetically modified mustard being grown in trials in open fields, after the country's top regulator granted its approval last month.

The top court began hearing an application seeking a moratorium on the release of GM mustard on 17 November, the latest legal wrangle over the genetically altered crop.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s top regulator of genetically modified plants and food products, had earlier approved the environmental release of Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11, a genetically engineered variant of mustard that scientists hope could provide India with a vital source of cooking oil.

In a landmark decision in October, GEAC gave the green light for open-field evaluation of the GM mustard crop, which promises to boost yields by as much as 28 percent.

Its advocates hope the nation’s farmers will have access to the hybrid seeds before the October 2025 planting season.

But activists led by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues, who has filed multiple petitions opposing open-field trials or commercial release of GM crops, are contesting the GEAC's approval in India's highest court.

To date, India has only approved one genetically altered crop for commercial growing: a pest-resistant cotton developed by US agricultural biotech giant Monsanto.

Opposition to GM crops


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