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The agricultural department of India’s Punjab state has announced that it would not allow the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) rapeseed mustard, the Hindustan Times reported.

In addition, the department was not responding to proposals put forward by private companies for permission for its commercial cultivation, the 5 February report said.

However, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is conducting field trials of the GM seeds, initiated by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), according to the report.

The GM mustard was produced by Delhi University’s biotechnology department, the report said.

Farming associations and other bodies have criticised PAU’s move, saying GM seeds are not a solution to falling crop yields, according to the report.

The university has said the trials were at an early stage and a report on its results – due in March – would be sent to the ICAR for analysis before a final decision was taken, the Hindustan Times wrote.

Meanwhile, the commercial cultivation of GM mustard has been given the go-ahead by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

“Some organisations approached us for starting the GM mustard cultivation on commercial lines but we have not responded to their requests as the state government so far has not taken a stand on the matter,” director of agriculture Gurvinder Singh was quoted as saying, adding that the department had decided not to allow cultivation as the benefits of the GM crop were still unknown.

Agriculture department officials have said they want to be sure the GM mustard would not disturb the normal mustard crop, according to the report, while farmers have said allowing GM mustard would boost the dominance of private seed manufacturers in the country.

A formal notification from the state government on the matter was pending, the report said.