In a signal that the stalemate over the policy on genetically modified (GM) crops could end soon with the change of guard at the ministry of environment and forests, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is likely to take a call on over 50 applications for field trials of such crops in the next few weeks.
The GEAC hasn’t met for more than a year in the wake of the ambivalence over whether GM crops should be encouraged.
Sources told FE that close to 35 new applications for trials of 11 agricultural crops are pending and another 20 have come up for ‘revalidation’ with GEAC.
Under the revalidation process, which became operational from June last year, the Centre decided that field-trial approvals granted at the federal level would remain valid for subsequent years, even if they aren’t conducted in the year of approval, and the trials can be conducted only if the state concerned gives a no-objection certificate (NOC).
Of the new applications, 15 relate to rice while seven are for maize varieties. Two applications each belong to cotton, brinjal, potato and mustard, and one each for castor, sugarcane, wheat, sorghum and chickpea. Fifteen revalidation proposals pertain to various varieties of cotton, two each of castor and maize and one of rice and wheat.
Only GM cotton is grown in India on a commercial scale right now.
States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra have given NOCs for 26 proposals and they will also be considered the GEAC in its next meeting. Overall, there are 81 applications that would be taken up by GEAC.
“A lot of applications are pending because the GEAC has not met for close to two years. Moreover, it was reconstituted last year. We want that the trials should go on irrespective of the fact if they are accepted or denied. Of the new applications, six have come in the last month itself,” said a senior environment ministry official and member of GEAC.
Meanwhile, the environment ministry, which is in favour of continuation of research on GM crops, is preparing an affidavit along with the department of biotechnology and agriculture ministry, which will be filed in the Supreme Court.
The apex court is hearing a case pertaining to a petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues for a direction to ban GM field trials. The case would come up for hearing on April 15.
States like Bihar, Rajasthan and Kerala