Experts want GM field trials without NoC from states

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 5 2014, 11:07am hrs
Thirty-five agricultural scientists, most of them associated with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), on Tuesday mooted the continuation of field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops

under their guidance, without a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the respective state governments.

Agriculture is a state subject, and state agricultural universities and agriculture departments of respective states must involve themselves in field trials for GM crops without losing time. An NoC from the state government is not required as these products will not get to farmers or consumers, KV Prabhu, deputy director (research), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), a premier institution under ICAR, said.

The group of scientists under the chairmanship of MS Swaminathan also suggested that after bio-safety clearance by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which operates under the environment ministry, ICAR should play a key role in the commercial release of GM crops to prevent undue proliferation of a large number of hybrid varieties.

This follows environment minister Veerappa Moilys last weeks approval to the March 2013 decision of the GEAC allowing more than 200 gene modification trials for rice, wheat, maize, castor and cotton, among others.

States like Bihar, Rajasthan and Kerala have opposed field trials for GM crops, and the Madhya Pradesh government even sent a letter to the Centre voicing its concerns on growing GM crops.

The scientists also suggested that till parliament approves the creation of an autonomous National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority, the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation, under the department of bio-technology and the GEAC (which provides regulatory approval for GM crops) to have full-time chairpersons.

Meanwhile, the environment ministry, which is in favour of continuation of research on GM crops, is preparing an affidavit, along with the department of biotechnology and agriculture ministry, which will be filed in the Supreme Court.

The apex court is hearing a case pertaining to a petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues for a direction to ban GM field trials. The case would come up for hearing on March 21.

The environment ministry had in 2010 imposed a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal the transgenic brinjal hybrid developed by Mahyco, a subsidiary of global seed giant Monsanto.