A central government committee has taken action against a Hyderabad institute for carrying out an experiment to create India's first genetically modified (GM) chickens in violation of government rules.
When a government panel found the experiment was conducted without proper bio-safety conditions, it ordered the destruction of the GM chickens and has pressed for further action against the institute.
The Directorate of Poultry, Hyderabad had carried out a pilot study to derive better quality and disease-resistant chickens by inserting into them green fluorescent protein — a new gene — through sperm meditation.
However, India's GM regulator Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) was told in June this year that the experiment was violating bio-safety conditions.
The GEAC constituted a panel headed by its co-chair Dr Arjula Reddy to verify the claims. The panel found the institute had not appointed a Biosafety Committee — mandatory for GM experiments in India.
In all, 263 chicks were hatched for the experiment of which 16 were found positive for the gene protein. Of these, seven died earlier, and the committee ordered the remaining nine — seven males and two females — be destroyed by autoclaving.
"It was done to ensure these chickens do not become hazardous for other poultry…" said a committee member.
The committee also got the tissues and biological samples — preserved for future experiments — destroyed.
"The institute has given assurance that all activities in this regard have been stopped and all the regulations stipulated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 will be strictly complied with," said the minutes of a July 30 GEAC meeting.
The GEAC concluded the institute was liable for punishment under EPA which stipulated imprisonment of up to five years and fine of up to Rs one lakh.
The panel has also asked Indian Council for Agriculture Research to take action against the institute.