In October last year, after the Government of India gave its approval for commercialization of GM mustard, it kicked up a raging storm. Activists were quick to criticize the government’s move and filed Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in the Supreme Court against the commercial release of the genetically-modified DMH-11 mustard variety for production. For long, activists and NGOs have opposed GM crops on the grounds that they are unsafe for human consumption. But scientists have challenged their arguments, which they say are not based on any scientific evidence or merit.
Given the fog of claims and counter claims, we decided to speak to the person who led the efforts to develop DMH-11 at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) to clear the air. For this month’s cover story, we conducted an extensive and exclusive interview with Dr Deepak Pental, who set up CGMCP in 1996 and developed DMH-11 in 2006 along with his team of agriculture scientists. It was a completely indigenous effort that was funded by taxpayers’ money.
The reason for conducting this interview is simple: we know all about the objections of activists, who have been very vocal, but we hardly know what the scientists and science have to say about genetically modified crops. We leave it to our readers to draw their conclusions after reading Dr Pental’s interview. But one thing is clear, if India is to achieve self-sufficiency in edible oils, it cannot afford to junk science at the altar of activism.
Another important issue that we have tried to address this month is the health of the Ganga river. For decades, an enormous amount has been spent on cleaning one of India’s most important and revered rivers, but the holy waters of the Ganga remain polluted. In the deeply researched article, we have sifted through a large volume of government data to evaluate the impact of the Namami Gange project, which is being driven by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Unfortunately, the returns on investment in cleaning the Ganga have remained poor despite the volume of money that has been poured into the task.
There is a good deal more to digest in this issue. We look forward to your feedback. And, we wish all our readers a very happy 2023.