A Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, which examined in detail the prospects and effects of cultivating genetically modified food crops, sought stopping of ongoing field trials of GM seeds in various states in view of unclear ramifications of transgenic crops on biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health.
The committee's report is regarded as a major setback to those backing GM crops in the country.
In its report tabled in Parliament last month, the committee said the experience of the past decade in the case of transgenics in agriculture crops had conclusively shown that while it had extensively benefited the industry, even a trickle-down was not visible as far as poor farmers were concerned.
"Considering the flaws in the functioning of the regulatory mechanism meant for the purpose, the lack of preparedness of various agencies who should ideally be involved in various oversight, pre- and post-commercialisation surveillance responsibilities in the context of transgenic crops, the committee desires that for the time being, all research and development activities on transgenic crops should be carried out only in containment and ongoing field trials in all states should be discontinued forthwith."
The committee noted that though biotechnology had made salutory contributions to the agricultural sector plant breeding, tissue culture, cropping practices, etc. in the past two decades transgenics in agricultural crops were being propagated as the panacea for several ills besetting the sector.
"The committee has critically analysed the evidence placed before it, both for and against transgenic agricultural crops. And pure science, within its restrictive realm, has not been the only benchmark of this analysis. Some of the most compelling concerns factored in by the committee are: India being one of the richest centres of biodiversity and agriculture, providing sustenance to almost 70% of the rural populace; more than 70% of India's farmers being small and marginal farmers, for whom agriculture is not a commercial venture but a way of life and a means of survival; food security and safety; manpower-intensive nature of agriculture in India; the severe agrarian crisis afflicting the country for years now; 60% of the cultivated area still being rainfed; the irretrievability of transgenic crops once released in the environment; effects on environment, human health and livestock and animal health, to quote a few," the report said.