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The Narendra Modi government’s decision to disallow field trials of 15 varieties of genetically modified (GM) crops came on top of several state governments virtually thwarting such trials of 45 GM crop varieties approved by the regulator during the previous UPA regime.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) gave approval for 45 GM crop trials ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. However, states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala refrained from giving no-objection certificates, which are mandatory.
The GM crops cleared by the GEAC for field trials include rice, wheat, maize, chickpeas and cotton varieties. The approvals in these cases were given during March-May 2014, when M Veerappa Moily was the environment minister.
The trials are continuing only in a few states – Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
On Tuesday, environment minister Prakash Javadekar, after a meeting with Sangh organisations, said a decision was yet to taken on field trials of the 15 varieties of GM crops, including rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal.
The companies investing in the research and development of GM crops have termed the move, amounting to putting on hold trials indefinitely as ‘anti-science’ and said it would delay the use of biotechnology in the agriculture sector.
Tuesday’s development added to the uncertainty over the fate of 70 new applications for the GM field trials pending before the GEAC.
“The government’s decision will demoralise scientists working in the field of bio-technology and push India’s GM crop research by many years. While taking into account the science and scientific facts, we expect the government to make an informed decision prior to putting any restriction on R&D of GM crops,” Ram Kaundinya, chairman, Association of Biotech Led Enterprise (ABLE) – Agriculture Group told FE.
GM technologies can control pests and reduce insecticide usage, help farmers in managing weeds and also save crops from drought, flood, heat, cold, disease or viruses.
Meanwhile, senior scientists with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) have said the field trials would commence in states that have provided the NOC. “Following the NOC, we follow scientific validation process in the trials for ensuring that the concern crop is suitable fore the region,” KV Prabhu, Deputy director, IARI said.
Since the introduction of BT cotton in 2002, no food crop has been introduced for commercial cultivation.
Since the introduction of BT cotton, the country’s annual output has increased from 13.7 million bale (one bale is 170 kg) in 2002-3 to