In the first major repercussion of farmers' revolt against field trials of GM crops, the government has decided that no trails will be allowed without the consent of the Panchayat or gram sabha of the area where trials are to be conducted.
In a decision taken last week and communicated to the state governments this week, the ministry of Environment and Forests has called the GM seed manufacturers to provide all details of field trails to the Panchayat members before conducting trails. They have also being asked to bring in more transparency in conducting the field trials.
In November, the Chattisgarh government had lodged a complaint with the ministry against a multi-national GM seeds manufacturing company alleging that the trials were conducted near Raipur without informing the government. The field was destroyed by the government officials in presence of state agriculture minister, prompting the state government to lodge the complaint.
Considering objection of the Chattisgarh government and farmer action against GM rice fields in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the ministry also decided that in future no approval for field trials would be issued unless the specific locations to conduct the trials are provided by the companies.
The GEAC has also decided to issue show cause notices to companies under Environment Protection Act for violations of regulations for conducting field trails. A failure observed by the members of the committee was that not 'satisfactory information' was provided to the community before conducting GM crop field trials. The failure was noted specifically to trials in Guntur and Gulbarga districts of Andhra Pradesh, as pointed out by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
In a bid to further strengthen the safety net around fields where GM crops trials are being done, the GEAC has asked the companies to comply with both 'physical' and 'biological' safety measures. The physical measures include isolation of field where the trails are being done and cover the field with tarpaulin sheet to prevent any contamination. The biological measures include planting non-transgenic rice around the experimental crop to act as pollen trapper to nullify contamination chances.
The GEAC also said that the state Agriculture Universities will monitor that these containment measures are undertaken by the seed companies.