Field trials of 10 Genetically Modified crops approved

Union government, however, stresses on states' permission

Field trials of 10 Genetically Modified crops approved

The country’s apex regulator on genetically modified (GM) crops on Friday has given its nod for field trials of 10 crops in the wake of Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily removing a hurdle imposed by his predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan.

 

Developers of these crops first received the approval a year ago. But the decision taken by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee in March 2013  was kept in abeyance by Natarajan on the ground that the Supreme Court was yet to give its verdict on a petition that challenged government's permission to conduct trials of GM crops.

Last month, Moily set aside Natarajan’s order arguing “there was no embargo from the Supreme Court” and the apex court did not ban field trials. The Union environment ministry said field trials would be permitted if states did not have any objection.

GEAC’s Friday approval is revalidation of the 2013 approval, which was necessary because the previous order mentioned specific time and trial locations, which were to be changed.

The panel came under criticism from Supreme Court appointed member and senior scientist P M Bhargava, who wanted to know the rationale behind permitting the field trials against the backdrop of the Supreme Court case and the adverse report, submitted by the Supreme Court appointed technical expert committee, sources told Deccan Herald.

Though Moily was attacked by the anti-GM lobby for going ahead with the trials, the minister received support from agriculture scientists, who claimed the de-facto moratorium on the field trials was putting the clock backwards while harnessing the benefits of GM technology.

National Academy of Agriculture Scientists suggested a full-time technical chairperson of the GEAC and another regulatory panel called Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation under the department of biotechnology till a national biotechnology regulatory authority comes into existence. The same was also recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister.

GEAC should also release the “decision documents” at the time of allowing field trials of a GM crop and at the time of its final release, NAAS said. The regulators also discussed nine cases of drugs and vaccines, which were referred to various committees and institutes, seeking clarifications.

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