India govt puts on hold clearances for GM crop trials
Jun. 26, 2013
The GEAC, the statutory appraisal committee for experimentation with GM crops, had in March given the go-ahead to field test the four food crops besides GM cotton varieties across the country. The decision was taken despite the ongoing court case where the regulatory regime for such technology has been challenged.
The GEAC falls under the purview of the environment ministry. Sources said the ministry had not approved the minutes of the relevant GEAC meeting which were inadvertently put out. The minutes were removed from public domain on Thursday. The ministry has decided to hold back its nod in view of the SC case and said a decision on such a serious matter needed wider deliberations, sources told TOI.
Some of these clearances given in March were for extension of time to carry out field trials in alternate places with some state governments refusing permission to use agricultural plots in their lands. The clearances stood to lapse with state governments opposing field trials.
Bayer Bioscience Limited had got open-ended clearance to test GM rice in all four regions of the country. Mayhco and BASF India Limited had got the nod to carry out trials on GM rice. The Hyderabad-based Directorate of Oilseeds Research's GM castor field tests were re-approved. Monsanto India Limited had secured clearance to field test GM maize at alternate sites in several states after it found opposition from the states it had earlier got the nod for from the Union government. Mayhco was given an extended clearance for its trials of GM wheat after the company failed to get the green light from the state government.
Though the case in the apex court is pending and the parliamentary standing committee is seized of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill - an alternative regulatory regime for GM products — industry had been pushing for early clearances for trials to start in the upcoming kharif season.
The nod given for rice, wheat, maize and castor trials to the six entities would have opened the floodgates for 53 other trials of food crops which are currently pending.
Earlier, the environment ministry had put in suspension the BT brinjal experiment by Monsanto but GM crop developers as well as the government had pushed ahead slowly for all other food crops with the agriculture ministry acting as an avid advocate of the GM technology but the environment ministry not showing as much keenness.
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