Skip to main content

MoEFCC reply 'vindicates' evidence on compromises in approving GM mustard

Counterview Desk 

The advocacy group Coalition for a GM-Free India, objecting to the India's Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) response to its report objecting to the recent Government of India  approval of GM mustard, has said, the response "vindicates our evidence and pointers on serious regulatory compromises in India’s appraisal and approval of GM mustard.”
In a statement, it said, “Government should respond to each point with evidence, if regulatory processes were indeed correct and robust – we challenge the Ministry to do so.”


The Union Environment Ministry’s (reported) response to the Coalition’s report vindicates and reinforces what the report showcased, in terms of serious violations with regard to India’s appraisal and approval of GM mustard. In fact, there is nothing new that has been shared in the Ministry’s response to some media outlets, other than recycling of inane, defensive statements that have already been made in the past, and a further obfuscation and dilution attempt of regulatory mandate and responsibility of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex regulatory body for gene technologies in India. “It is clear that the Government has no evidence to proffer of sound regulatory processes run. We challenge the Ministry of Environment to respond to each point with evidence, if regulatory processes were indeed correct and robust”, said the Coalition.
The Coalition’s report showcased more than 15 instances of how there have been lapses in the processes and procedures adopted for GM mustard appraisal and approval – these can be broadly categorised to include (a) regulatory infirmities and violations that go against India’s Constitution, (b) not adhering to India’s international commitments under the Cartagena Protocol, (c) taking up illegal processes that are not permissible under the 1989 Rules (of Environment Protection Act 1986) that govern statutory regulation of gene technologies in the country, (d) violating the limited guidelines and protocols that exist, (e) ad-hoc and arbitrary regulatory decision-making about tests to be done and exempted, and (f) defying Supreme Court and Central Information Commission Orders. The Coalition’s report also showed that India’s regulatory regime is ridden with conflict of interest, and is devoid of specific scientific protocols that are required for testing HT crops.
Importantly, the regulatory processes related to GM mustard chose to defy the key unanimous recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed original and independent expert committee members, including the Government-nominated experts – that of banning HT crops in India, and that of not dabbling with transgenic technology in crops for which India is the Centre of Origin/Diversity.
While the Coalition report was put out through a Press Conference on the 6th of January 2023, the Union Ministry of Environment chose to respond on a plain page document (without any letterhead and signatures) on a weekend on the 7th of January 2023. While the Coalition had no way of verifying the authenticity of the document shared by several journalists, it is nevertheless choosing to put out a response.
“The Ministry of Environment is digging itself deeper into the regulatory muck and obfuscation that GM mustard is surrounded by, with its unscientific and disingenuous responses. For instance, if environmental release of GM mustard is subject to clearance from FSSAI, where is such clearance right now, whereas GM mustard has already been planted? What does MoEFCC want to do with the ICMR guidelines of 2008 for food safety assessment under the EPA statutory regulatory regime, if they want to put the onus on FSSAI? As another example from the response from the Ministry, the safety studies listed clearly show that they were with three proteins, which means that parental lines which will have two proteins each were not tested separately as distinct GMOs in themselves. The Ministry response also admits to many other points made by the Coalition, through evasive and unconnected responses. It is clear that the public response through our report, to Union of India’s falsehoods, has provided accurate information to the citizens of India, and it is hoped that the Union of India will not mislead the Court in the next hearing at least”, said the Coalition in a press release.
The Coalition highlights, through the following points, the fact that the Government of India, through its response, is actually admitting clearly to most of the issues flagged by the Coalition’s report.
  • The fact that GM mustard did not go through the testing that Bt brinjal went through is clear from the reply from the Environment Ministry. The list of studies performed on GM mustard is part of the Ministry’s Reply. As can be clearly seen (Ref: Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation to GEAC May 22 2006Brijal.ppt [Read-Only] (, Acute Oral Toxicity Study in Rats, Mucous Membrane Irritation Test in Female Rabbits, Primary Skin Irritation Test in Rabbits, Assessment of allergenicity of protein extract using Brown Norway Rats, Response on growth performance of common carp with Bt brinjal as a dietary feed ingredient, Chemical Fingerprinting of alkaloids, Subchronic feeding studies using New Zealand White Rabbit, Effect on performance and health of broiler chickens, Subchronic feeding studies in goats, Feeding studies in lactating crossbred dairy cows were not done on GM mustard, whereas they were done in the case of Bt brinjal.
  • Ministry response confirms that no Health Expert participated in the appraisal of GM mustard: The Ministry response does not refute the fact that Dr B Sesikeran did not participate in the 2016 Sub-Committee’s 3 meetings; and that the 2022 Expert Committee does not have any health expert nominated at all. The ICMR representative is not present when GM mustard is finally cleared on October 18th 2022, based on the Expert Committee’s recommendations. In response to the evidence presented about health expert absence, from the Government’s own documents, GEAC/MoEF are discussing about Environmental Risk Assessment Guidelines of 2016!! It is worth remembering that the 1989 Rules’ Preambles show that the competent authorities for regulation have been created “with a view to protecting the environment, nature and health, in connection with the application of gene technology..” (emphasis added). (Ref.: Rules-for-the-manufacture-use-import-export-and-storage-1989.pdf ( GM mustard seeds are GMOs when they are sold for consumption, and GEAC cannot say that the conditional approval for environmental release is subject to the clearance from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. There are two issues here: One, GEAC itself is supposed to assess health safety since the regulatory regime under EPA has the 2008 ICMR guidelines (which themselves are narrow and challenged), since the mandate of the 1989 Rules requires this to be so (Ref: Microsoft Word - Coverpage.doc (; further, where is the FSSAI clearance, based on what testing and regulatory provisions and without such clearance from FSSAI, why were GM mustard seeds planted?
  • Ministry response admits that there are no HT crop testing guidelines and protocols in India, and that GM mustard did not get tested as a HT mustard: Government shied away from showing where HT crop testing guidelines and protocols were. Instead of responding to that point, MoEF is busy showing that GM mustard cannot be termed a HT crop, while admitting that HT trait will be used during hybrid seed production. If that is so, why was GM mustard not tested as a HT crop, and if it has to be tested, where are the guidelines and protocols? The Coalition has pointed correctly to the regulatory compromise made here.
  • Parental Lines have not undergone the tests required, and should have been treated as distinct GMOs, with separate dossiers and applications – MoEF response is an admission to the fact that this did not happen: MoEF response shied away from stating the tests undertaken ONLY on parental lines, and gave a list of tests done on parental lines and DMH-11. The list also shows that tests were with three proteins which means the hybrid offspring (parental lines will have two proteins each, different from each other). This itself is an avoidance of the response needed on this point, and admits to the accuracy of the Coalition’s evidence on the matter.
  • Limited statutory guidelines and protocols that constitute the sum total of India’s regulatory regime have not been met, as clearly reflected in the Ministry response: The Government’s response is a dead give-away and a clear admission that the statutory guidelines and protocols were not adhered to. It is another matter that these guidelines and protocols are not adequate and do not constitute a robust regulatory regime. The response says that ICAR guidelines will be used for evaluation of DMH-11 now – if evaluation is to happen now, why was an environmental release approval already given? Why are claims on India’s edible oil import bill decline being made? If this is about testing and trials of GM mustard, why are the Confined Field Trials guidelines and protocols not being deployed?
  • In response to the matters raised on Conflict of Interest, MOEF is choosing to bring up issues of Confidentiality Agreement!: It appears that similar to the gag order issued by ICAR, MoEF wants to remind regulators about some confidentiality agreement. The central point of conflict of interest has not been responded to at all. The fact that Dr Akshay Pradhan has indeed participated as a GEAC member on an application that was put in by his Centre, where he is also a developer, is the reality, and is not being denied by the MoEF response. Further, no explanation has been provided as to why GEAC was reconstituted in 2014 to bring in Dr Akshay Pradhan, when GEAC (which is constituted for 3 years each time) was created only some months earlier in 2013. By circumventing of the specific replies to the issues raised by the Coalition, MoEF is admitting to its guilt related to a faulty regulatory body.
  • State Governments’ Constitutional Authority being trampled upon: MoEF’s response clearly shows that the conditional environmental release is notionally and ostensibly for breeding of new lines, and for seed production and testing, all of which are to be done under guidelines related to Confined Field Trials, and not to be done with “environmental release”. This itself is a big regulatory violation. And any planting of GMOs in any state requires state government No Objection Certificate. This has not been done, nor have consultations been held with state governments (while for Bt brinjal, Union Environment Ministry wrote to the Chief Ministers of all states for eliciting their views and analysis). The Coalition was right in pointing out that the approval of GM mustard is against the letter and spirit of India’s constitution.
Similar are the other evasive and beside-the-point replies to very specific points of regulatory compromise that were raised by the Coalition for a GM-Free India, and the very replies are an admission from the Government of India on its culpability on these matters. This includes violations with regard to Cartagena Protocol and India’s international commitments. The biosafety dossier that was made available to the public of 3500+pages was not allowed to be photocopied or photographed, with responses expected from the memory of any person looking into the data. What has been presented in our report cannot be termed as “hair-splitting”, and rigorous scientific regulation requires the regime to be improved to fulfil its key mandate of protecting our environment and health from the risks of gene technologies and for socio-economic considerations to be addressed, for guidelines and protocols to be adhered to, for independent comprehensive long term scientific appraisal to be taken up, for conflict of interest to be avoided in regulatory decision-making and public participation to be institutionalised, for needs and alternatives assessment to precede any processing of any application, for State Governments’ policy positions to be respected, and for a liability and redressal regime to be put into place. The Coalition also clarifies that on the point of seeds reaching DRMR on October 22nd 2023 itself, it had relied on the DRMR Director’s media bytes where he shared this information to credible media outlets. It is apparent from the MoEFCC’s response that numerous serious regulatory violations and infirmities plague GM mustard approval, and the Coalition asks the Union of India to stop perpetrating falsehoods in the Supreme Court.
Coalition's report is available here 



Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Union budget 'mum' on relief to marginalised communities facing climate change impact

Counterview Desk  ActionAid, an international advocacy group which claims to work for a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice, has wondered if the Union budget 2023-24, which is being acclaimed for providing succour to the middle classes, has anything to offer to the India's poor. In a statement, it said, while the budget may have "prioritised inclusive development", the financial outlay for ensuring it "does not show the zeal as hoped." Stating that the Finance Minister said Rs 35,000 crore revenue would have to be "forgone" due to a reduction in personal income taxes, "fiscal prudence is not enough to expand public employment, social security, welfare, education and health expenditures considerably." "The need of the hour is to raise revenues through the reduction of revenues forgone and innovative mechanisms such as wealth tax on super accumulation of wealth", it added. Text: The Union Budget 2023 has given significant

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen