Update on GMO Mustard

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An update on the GMO mustard situation in India: while the regulatory and approval process moves forward,  the debate is warming up. Vandana Shiva, predictably opposes the acceptance of GMO mustard.  She expressed her opinion in a piece entitled “GMO in my Mustard”. The title is interesting: GMO is not an ingredient, to be contained” in” mustard or anything else. It is a technology, one that is now sought to be applied to growing high yielding mustard which, specially as a cooking medium (mustard oil) is crucial in Indian cooking.  India currently imports oil to meet domestic demand, and higher yields would enable it cut down the import bill.

The article seems to indicate some kind of concerted effort to ban mustard oil in favor of soy bean oil. It is true  that adulterated oil has caused significant public health issues including fatalities. Why would this be relevant to evaluating GMO mustard?  The food safety issues occurred in the past, no GMO mustard was cultivated at that point.

Another objection she raises involves dumping and subsidies. Those are important issues but not specific to GMO crops (any product from food to TVs can be dumped and many industries receive subsidies in different countries), they are trade issues, not those of agricultural biotechnology.

Dr. Pental , whose group conducted the research on GMO mustard addresses the issues raised by  Vandana Shiva, in  “The GMO in your mustard is good”, including the much repeated but baseless threat of “Terminator Technology”.  He also notes that since the new seeds have been developed by a research organization  instead of a corporation, they would be available at reasonable cost to the farmer.

And if the idea of “horizontal gene transfer” is causing concern, some facts here will allay your fears.

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