Pawar asks CMs to allow GMO field trials

Pawar asks CMs  to allow GMO field trials

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has asked Chief Ministers of various states to allow field trials of genetically modified crops under “strictest controls of bio-safety” so that progress of science is not blocked and “development of front line technology” continues.

“Any hasty decision to block the progress of science will have grave long term implications for our country, which will have to be borne by the next generation,” Pawar said in his letter dated October 11, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald.

The minister offered the services of his officers and scientists to allay “any apprehension that states may have on the safety and soundness of GM technology and the strictness of our regulatory regime.”

“Any hesitation on our part to prevent the further development of this technology on unfounded apprehension would not only demoralise our scientific community but also render meaningless the progress made by us so far and increase our future dependence on other countries where research in transgenic is being given more and more importance.”

The minister's letter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister that met at Bangalore on Monday.

Four days before Pawar's letter, SAC-PM, headed by national research professor C N R Rao, submitted a report to the Prime Minister's Office favouring continuing research and development of genetically engineered crops while also strengthening the regulatory framework, which is riddled with flaws.

The panel also suggested improving the capacity of testing new technologies in public sector laboratories and strengthening the state's agriculture departments. However, a Supreme Court appointed technical expert panel has proposed a 10 year moratorium on the field trials of GM crops. The moratorium period could be utilised to improve the regulatory structure and set up dedicated sites for field trials in state agriculture universities or farm research institutions.

The apex court on Monday has asked the central government and biotechnology industry to respond to the TEC report. The court formed the TEC while hearing a public interest litigation on GM crops.

“Out of all the modern tools in crop science, biotechnology offers the maximum potential to address the issue of increasing genetic potential of building resilience to changing agro-climatic conditions and, above all, of increasing productivity on environmentally sustainable basis. It is, therefore, essential that adequate and fair opportunity is given to scientific efforts to develop GM crops,” Pawar said in his letter.

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