India's Genetically Modified (GM) crop growth story has been stalled with just four states allowing field trials. An eminent scientist has sought Prime Minister's intervention in this regard.
Field trials of newly developed GM crops are important for scientific analysis of the yield and its commercial release. Till 2010, research institutions were free to conduct field trials anywhere in the country. But in 2011, the environment ministry had imposed a condition that trials cannot be conducted without a no-objection certificate from state government concerned.
With the new guideline in place, Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka and West Bengal have refused trials. The data shows that only Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are allowing trials.
"The other states have refused," said a senior environment ministry official, claiming that it has slowed down research in bio-technology and thus could hamper India's vision to be food secure in the coming years.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an interview to a science magazine had accused foreign-funded non-government organisations of stalling introduction of GM food crops.
Meanwhile, eminent scientists including Deepak Pental, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University, has sought PM's intervention to ensure field
trials. Pental had received a major setback in March this year when the field trial of GM mustard was stalled by the Rajasthan government apparently under pressure from anti-GM NGOs.
Pental registered his protest with the Genetically Engineering Appraisal Committee, which described the decision of the Rajasthan government as "arbitrary" but said the final decision rests with the state government.
Another biotechnology scientist described the present situation as dismal due to public mood against it. "Many companies are now shifting their research work from India to other developing countries," he said, a view confirmed by firms.