Environment ministry to review field trials of all GM crops
Hindustan Times, May 11 2011
After the moratorium on BT Brinjal, the environment ministry has decided to review all existing field trials of the Genetically Modified crops in India for safety and the protocols of safety adopted by trial agencies. The committee is being set up on directions of the Supreme Court, which wanted the gov ernment to constitute a committee to advise it on safety aspects of GM crop field trials. Several field trails of GM crops including rice, tomato, brinjal and cotton are going on in different parts of the country.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh at a recent meeting with the petitioner Aruna Rodrigues finalized the terms of reference of the committee, which included comprehensive review of the field trials being conducted, whether the GM crops have met the safety parameters as prescribed by GM regulator and impact on local vegetation.
Rodrigues, in her petition, had alleged that field trials being conducted by various companies after getting approval from Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had contaminated local vegetation and poultry.
Although stray incidents of contamination had been confirmed in certain states such as Andhra Pradesh, no case of large scale contamination was reported. Rodrigues had sought a stay on allowing field trials immediately but the court did not accept her petition.
According to ministry officials, the committee will be broad-based to taken into account all view-points. “We want both people in favour and against the GM in the committee,” a ministry functionary said.
The committee, whose members are yet to be finalized, would have representatives from civil society, GM experts from the government and outside.
There is a fight going on who would be the members of the committee. Both ministry and Rodrigues blame each other for failing to decide on the members six months after the court issued the direction. “A meeting was recently held but we failed to reach a consensus,” a ministry official said.
Another ministry’s expert group is reviewing Ramesh’s moratorium on BT Brinjal imposed last year. The committee met in April and deliberated on the possibility of limited release of the India’s first GM crop.
“There is nothing called limited commercial release because you cannot withdraw a GM crop once released,” said Kavita Karuganti of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.