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Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 27, 2014
The Union environment ministry has given a go ahead to the field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) food crops including rice and wheat. The move comes even as the environment ministry has not prescribed scientifically validated bio-safety protocol and the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the efficacy of the trials.

Environment minister Veerappa Moily on Thursday said that he has given approval to GM crops after his apprehensions on their safety was addressed and said the approval would be subject to some environmental conditions.

But, he did not elaborate on his apprehensions and how they were addressed in such a short span of time. “We will not allow trials unless agreed by the state governments,” Moily said, terming it as one of the conditions to be imposed. But, there is nothing new in this as former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had introduced the concept of seeking no objection certificate from the state government before conducting trials.

Around half of the Indian states have already rejected the GM companies bid to get field trials done. Only states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat have allowed field trials and other such as Bihar, Karnataka, West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala have taken a policy decision against GM crops.

The minister’s bio-safety conditions are based on the recommendations of the committee of secretaries on safety, who do not have much experience on GM crops. Ministry sources said they have prescribed generic conditions like earmarking the field where the trials where happen to ensuring that the crop is not mixed with non-GM crops.

Going by these conditions, the environment ministry cleared trials of over 200 GM crops including field varieties such as wheat, maize and rice.