In the case of GM HT mustard, the specific concern is the use of glufosinate, a herbicide that is commonly used with HT crops to control weeds
The government is misleading the Supreme Court on the herbicide-tolerant (HT) nature of GM mustard and is trying to "criminalise" farmers for using herbicide on the crop, a group of NGOs opposing genetically modified crops has said.
In a letter to Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, the Coalition of GM-free India also alleged the government is ignoring the clear recommendation by the court-appointed technical expert committee (TEC) for a ban on HT crops in India.
"The Union of India is misleading the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India with an assurance that GM mustard is not an HT crop. By repeatedly giving this assurance that GM mustard is not a herbicide-tolerant crop, the Government of India is trying to circumvent the clear recommendation by the court-appointed TEC for a ban on HT crops in India," the letter read.
The government is instead seeking to "criminalise" farmers who use herbicide on GM mustard, it said.
The approval letter issued by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for the environmental release of GM mustard in October 2022 contained a condition that prohibits farmers from using any formulation of herbicide for cultivation in their fields under any situation, it said.
However, it said, the criminalisation or penalising of farmers is legally not possible as they are exempted from regulation under the Insecticides Act of 1968.
The debate on the effects of GM crops on agriculture and the environment is a contentious issue in many countries, including India.
While proponents of GM crops argue that they can help address issues such as food security and agricultural productivity, critics often point to concerns over their safety and potential environmental impacts.
In the case of GM HT mustard, the specific concern is the use of glufosinate, a herbicide that is commonly used with HT crops to control weeds.
While HT crops can benefit farmers, their use can also negatively impact the environment and contribute to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds.