Do away with NOCs for GM crop trials: Agri scientists

'These products will not go to farmers or consumers'

Do away with NOCs for GM crop trials: Agri scientists

Farm scientists want the Central government to do away with the current practice of obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from states for conducting “confined field trials” of genetically modified (GM) crops because these crops are not released in the environment.

The proposal, from the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), comes close on the heels of Union Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily permitting field trials of several GM crops provided state governments have no objections to such trials being conducted in their state.

“The no-objection certification from state governments for conducting field trials is not required, as these products will not go to farmers or consumers,” said S Ayyappan, Director General of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and the president of NAAS, which held a special meeting on GM crops here on Tuesday. State government NOCs are not relevant as in a GM crop trial everything is destroyed and burnt after data collection, explained Deepak Pental, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University.

Pental was the leader of a team that developed a high-yield GM variety of mustard. The crop underwent bio-safety research level-phase 1 trial at three sites in Rajasthan in 2010-11. The following year, trial was underway at three sites in the states as per the regulatory requirement when the Rajasthan government suddenly withdrew the NOC and set fire to the standing crop.

“All the sites were in ICAR institutes and the state agriculture university campus. We had the NOC, but the government decided against it,” Pental told Deccan Herald.

The ICAR now offers its All India Coordinated Research Project System for conducting field trial of GM crops—a proposal first floated by noted agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan in 2004.

“The ICAR is better equipped and better skilled now than what it used to be in 2004,” said K V Prabhu, Joint Director (Research) at Indian Agriculture Research Institute, Delhi.

The academy proposes to set up two panels—a committee on public understanding of science and a committee on political understanding of science—to communicate on scientific and technical issues related to GM crops to the masses as well as politicians. “There is a need for political support for promoting genetic engineering research in our country to harness its full potential,” said Ayyappan.

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