Pressure is mounting on the Indian government to approve the country’s first genetically modified food crop.
India’s National Academy of Agricultural Sciences has asked the country’s prime minister to intervene in the regulatory process so that farmers can grow a GM mustard variety in time for the 2017 rabi (winter) crop.
The academy, which comprises leading agricultural scientists, recently gave its unanimous en-dorsement for the commercial release of the Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11), which increases yields by 20 to 30 percent over conventional varieties.
India is one of the world’s largest mustard producers. Growers plant 12.5 million acres of the crop a year and produce five million tonnes of seed.
Advocates say that if the new hybrid is approved and widely grown it could significantly in-crease India’s mustard output.
However, that isn’t a concern for Canadian growers, said Kevin Hursh, executive director of the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission.
“In India, their use of mustard is far different than the condiment mustard we service,” he said.
The mustard grown in India is primarily used to make cooking oil. So while Hursh is interested in seeing whether India’s first GM food crop gets approved for cultivation, it isn’t keeping him awake at night.
“I don’t see the direct implications for the Canadian industry,” he said.
Canada’s mustard customers have made it clear that they do not want GM mustard. Most of the brown and some of the yellow mustard grown in Canada is exported to the European Union, where consumers are wary of GM food.
“The industry has always been very sensitive to that viewpoint.”
Hursh isn’t worried about the commingling of India’s GM mustard with Canada’s non-GM crops because India’s crop is consumed domestically.