Six years after it disapproved cultivation of a transgenic food crop, India’s government is trying again to approve what would be India’s first such crop, a genetically modified (GM) mustard. Environmentalists argue that the mustard, grown for its edible leaves and for cooking oil, could harm local varieties and that the toxicity tests being carried out to evaluate GM mustard’s safety as a food are inadequate. Heightening suspicion, regulators have repeatedly spurned calls to release biosafety data.
India for years has planted GM cotton, but transgenic food crops have been off the table. In 2010, activists won a moratorium on approval of commercial planting of GM brinjal, a kind of eggplant, on the grounds that it hadn’t been tested adequately. But India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, is determined to open the door to GM technologies, saying they can help ensure food security and that rejecting them is like “saying ‘no’ to science.” The government is again allowing field trials of a variety of GM crops, frozen since the brinjal controversy, and a decision on GM mustard is expected this summer.