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Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave's death could delay GM crop decision

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s environment minister died on Thursday, depriving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of a key figure as it considers whether to approve the country’s first genetically modified food crop.

Anil Madhav Dave, 60, died in hospital after complaining of feeling unwell, a day after attending a cabinet meeting.

The two-term lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, a veteran of Hindu-nationalist umbrella group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was named last year as minister for the environment, forest and climate change.

Dave had been due to take a final decision on an application for an indigenously developed GM crop of mustard, which is similar to rapeseed. A ministry panel recently recommended allowing commercial cultivation of the oilseed.

Modi has chosen Harsh Vardhan, the current cabinet minister for science and technology and earth sciences, to take on the additional portfolio of the environment, forest and climate change ministry, the president’s office said.

Reporting by Malini Menon; Editing by Nick Macfie