Panel For Clipping GEAC Wings

New Delhi | Updated: Apr 28 2004, 05:30am hrs
The MS Swaminathan panel on applications of biotechnology in agriculture has sought to reduce the powers of the existing regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

It has suggested that pending the setting up of an autonomous Agricultural Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (ABRA), the release of transgenic crops for commercial cultivation should be done by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Union agriculture ministry. The panel has limited the powers of the GEAC to only environmental clearance.

Regarding selection of crops for developing transgenics, the panel report said, the alternatives available for meeting the food and nutritional needs should be viewed comprehensively before resorting to transgenics. Export market should be kept in view while selecting crops for developing transgenics.

The panel also suggested the labelling of genetically modified (GM) products, setting up of Codex norms in GM foods, protection of organic farming zones and agro-biodiversity sanctuaries from the effects of cross-pollination of GM crops, gathering of data on effects of transgenics on other crops on line of recent studies in UK.

Taskforce For Biotech Apps In Pharma

The Union environment ministry has consituted a 12-member taskforce for recommending biotechnology applications in the pharma sector headed by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) director-general, Dr RA Mashelkar. The panel will suggest measures to streamline the regulatory mechanism and process for use of living modified organisms (LMOs) at various stages and also the mechanism for import of LMOs. Industry bodies like FICCI and CII are in the panel. Similar panel is expected to be formed for biotechnology applications in processed food sector.

It suggested special government sponored insurance scheme for GM crops, venture capital assistance for industries developing GM crops and private-public sector alliance for production and marketing of GM seeds. It also called for studying the effects of recombinant vaccines and GM feeds on milk, meat and eggs. With a view to hasten the process of clearance of GM crops, the panel report said, once an extant/transgene has been declared bio-safe, its derivatives need not always be evaluated for bio-safety again.

The panel report recommended until the ABRA is set up the GEAC should have two wings, one to deal with transgenic in agriculture and the other in pharma sector.