Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has dropped a bombshell that could prove to be significant in the current battle over Genetically Modified (GM) crop field trials. Natarajan, sources said, had raised issues similar to the ones in the final report of the Technical Expert Committee report submitted last week to the Supreme Court.
Natarajan wrote to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recommending that field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops not be allowed till a regulatory framework and safety protocols were put in place. Natarajan’s missive was her response to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accusation that she was stonewalling the development of GM crops and technology in India. The letter clarified the environment ministry’s stand on GM food crops.
Natarajan also questioned Pawar on his argument that GM food crops were necessary to ensure food security in the country, quoting several studies which questioned this logic and the relationship.
Instead, Natarajan said, improving the productivity of small land owning farmers can improve productivity without GM crops and the resultant issues.
Field trials of 56 varieties of GM crops cannot be allowed without a proper regulatory mechanism because the government has only introduced the Bio-Technology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill in Parliament, not approved it, she has stated.
The letter also flagged off the issue of many state governments refusing permission to allow field trials of GM crops. Without the cooperation of state governments it would not be possible to conduct proper field trials of GM crops even if Natarajan’s environment ministry gave approvals.
The minister has reportedly written that the approvals to GM crops cannot be given till the Supreme Court takes a final view on the TEC report. Earlier this month, a committee of the court had submitted a report with one dissent recommending a ban on trials of GM crops till regulatory mechanism and adequate safety protocols are put in place.