SC panel says no to GM crops for now
A Supreme Court appointed committee had recommended an indefinite moratorium on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops till the government fixes regulatory and safety aspects and a ban on the introduction of GM varieties in regions of their origin.
The final report submitted to the court last week and made public on Monday, does not mention 10-year moratorium on field trials as suggested in the interim report. Instead, it has imposed four conditions for “meaningfully” consideration for allowing trials.
The conditions suggested are setting up of a think tank to look into bio-safety issues, housing the new bio-technology regulatory in either environment or health ministry, identification of specific sites for conducting tests and mandatory stakeholder participation as part of risk management strategy.
Once these conditions are met, the technical expert committee (TEC) had suggested that the trials should be only allowed on land owned by GM crop application and not on leased land as done presently.
The TEC did not find any “compelling” reason for allowing commercial release of BT for food such as rice and brinjal first in India and gave global example of where transgencis such as soyabean, corn and canola are primarily for oil or feed after processing.
Another major recommendation of TEC could result in non-introduction of developed BT brinjal and rice in places where they are domesticated such as West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar, as it can result in reduction of “diversity” and “genetic purity”.
“Oryza nivara, medicinal rice, can also be at risk if GM rice comes to dominate the crop as has happened for cotton in India,” the report said, adding that India was not facing any shortage of grains like in the 1960s.