In a huge setback to companies involved in genetically modified (GM) crops, the Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee (TEC) has recommended a ban on all field trials of such crops.
In its interim report submitted to the SC bench headed by justice Swatanter Kumar on October 15, the TEC further suggested a 10-year moratorium on anything that has the BT field trial, specifically food crops.As far as herbicide tolerant (HT) crops are concerned, the TEC recommended setting up of another committee comprising experts, civil society members and stake holders to look into the acceptability of such crops in India after studying their impact. HT crops are those that are engineered to become tolerant to herbicide - a weedkiller - which is sprayed around the crop.
The SC had in May this year constituted a committee comprising six eminent scientists and had fixed its terms of reference that were agreed to and signed by the government and petitioner Aruna Rodrigues. On receiving the report, the SC has fixed October 29 to take note of the matter.
While recommending the ban, the committee said the trials should not take place until certain conditions were satisfied. The conditions include designating specific sites for conducting field trials and putting in place sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials. A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops, should be engaged for scrutiny and analysis of the safety data, the report said.
It also called for a mandatory requirement for preliminary bio-safety tests prior to the field trials, including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.
The TEC submitted its report after doing wide-spread consultations with experts and said that the moratorium was necessitated by the potential harm of GM crops to human health. It also recommended long-term and inter-generational studies in rodents to be added to tests.