Centre to take call on allowing GM crop field trials after SC decision

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 3 2014, 06:55am hrs
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said the government will take a call on allowing field trials of GM crops only after

the Supreme Court gives its decision.

The apex court has fixed September 16 as next hearing for the public interest litigation filed in 2005 by activist Aruna Rodrigues and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, demanding a ban on import and sowing of GM crops in India.

This comes after an RSS-backed outfit, following a meeting with Javadekar, recently said the government has put trials of GM crops on hold.Former environment minister Veerappa Moily in the UPA government had approved GM field trials for crops such as rice, maize, wheat and chickpea.

Meanwhile, 45 transgenic crops approved by the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) during UPA rule for field trials await mandatory nod from the state governments concerned, thus delaying commercial introduction of GM crops. However, with states including Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu refusing to give mandatory NOC for GM field trials, it has delayed the process of commercial cultivation of various drought, flood and other stress-tolerant GM crops.

Agriculture ministry sources told FE that only states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh Haryana and Maharashtra have agreed to provide NOC for GM trials.

Since new environment minister Javadekar has decided to put on hold the recent GEAC clearance for field trials of 15 varieties of GM crops, including rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal, the companies investing in research and development of GM crops have termed the move as 'anti-science' and said it would delay use of biotechnology in the agriculture sector.

Besides there is now uncertainty about the future of 70 new applications for GM field trials pending before the GEAC.

Since the introduction of BT cotton in 2002, no food crop has been introduced for commercial cultivation.

After the introduction of BT cotton, the country's annual output has increased from 13.7 million bales (one bale is 170 kg) in 2002-03 to 36.5 million bales in 2013-14, a huge jump of 166%.