Caught between devil and deep sea, the environment ministry has reconstituted the bio-tech regulator - the Genetically Engineered Appraisal Committee (GEAC) - before start of the new season for field trails.
The ministry had not constituted the GEAC for almost a year thinking that it would be replaced by the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), an independent regulator to be set up by science and technology ministry.
A parliamentary standing committee had submitted its report on BRAI in last August but the science and technology ministry has not got the final version of the bill approved by the Cabinet because of differences within the government. Technically, there is no regulator for GM products now.
“We thought that the reworked BRAI bill would be introduced in the budget session of Parliament,” a senior ministry functionary said, explaining the reason for delay in constituting the committee that gives approvals for field trials of genetically modified crops.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had raised tempo for re-constituting GEAC saying the delay was denying the scientists of their right to experiment on GM crops. “We can’t afford to curtail the vigour of our scientific community and deny them the right to conduct field trial (trial of) GM crops... The process of research should not be stopped and it should not be jeopardised,” he had said at a function of Indian Council for Agricultural Research.
But, the environment ministry is not willing to take Pawar’s blame for slowing down of the GM trials. Instead, it has accused the states of stifling GM research. “Around 50 approvals given by GEAC have not been agreed by the state governments,” the ministry functionary said.