The bio-tech regulator body on Friday approved field trials of 15 new varieties of genetically modified food crops — including rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton — taking the number of approvals given in the last three months to 36.
These are the most number of approvals for field trials given by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in such a short duration of time.
The GEAC has already approved trials of country’s staple diet of rice and wheat bringing back the focus on GM crops.
GEAC chairman and additional secretary in the environment ministry Hem Pande said that they have approved 15 field trials proposals adding that they have almost cleared backlog of approvals for the last one year.
The GEAC had not met for a year, since March 2013, when then environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had said that the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on new field trials.
“We cleared 15 proposals on Friday. We had a backlog of about 70 proposals and have cleared about 60 of those till date,” Pande said. With GM crops being a highly controversial issue in the country, India has so far only allowed commercial growth of BT cotton.
Those opposing the GM crops accused the GEAC of giving approval to field trials even though the issue was being deliberated in the Supreme Court. “It is highly inappropriate that the GEAC was giving approvals even though a SC appointed committee had raised questions of biosafety of field trials,” a coalition of non-government organisations said in a letter to environment minister Prakash Javadekar.