In boost to GM seed cos, govt eases trial norms

Written by Kirtika Suneja | Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 24 2013, 10:09am hrs
In what could help companies wanting to promote genetically modified (GM) crops, the Centre has decided that field-trial approvals granted at the federal level would remain valid for

subsequent years, even if they aren't conducted in the year of approval.

Of course, the trials can be conducted only if the state concerned gives the no-objection certificate (NOC). According to the current procedure, after the clearance by the environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), state governments have to give an NOC for the field trial of GM crops. However, during the last few years, states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have not allowed field trials of GM crops despite apprehensions by seed companies that it would delay further research.

As per the current guidelines, the clearance is not an 'open ended' one and is valid for one particular season. Thus the seed company has to apply again for a fresh clearance for each kharif or rabi season. Now, GEAC will only consider the NOC from the states as an additional information for field trial clearance.

We have made the process easier now because trials were held up due to lack of NOC and the companies were missing the trials that season. When these applications come again, they are not treated as fresh cases, a senior environment ministry official told FE. Currently, there are 70 new applications for field trial pending with the GEAC, and 50 cases are awaiting NOC from states despite being cleared by the Central committee in the last 18 months.

Applications related to 18 crops like GM brinjal, pea, potato, okra, rice, watermelon, maize, groundnut, papaya, mustard and sorghum among others are waiting for state government nods to see the field trial stage.