1.Genetically modified foods capped for 10 years by Supreme Court panel
2.Supreme Court panel recommends stopping GM crop trials
3.Panel of scientists recommends ten-year moratorium

NOTE: Some very useful detail in items 2 and 3. You can download the technical expert committee's report here:
1.Genetically modified foods capped for 10 years by Supreme Court panel
Dinesh C Sharma
Daily Mail, 18 October 2012

The fate of genetically modified (GM) food crops in India has been virtually sealed.

After the damning report of the parliamentary committee on agriculture, a panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court has recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.

The panel also wants safety dossiers of all GM crops approved for trials and those in the pipeline to be reviewed by independent biosafety experts, in the light of 'several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of safety data'.

If necessary, international experts should be involved in this exercise. The apex court had specifically sought technical opinion on continuation of open field trials.

At present, several food crops are being tested in open fields by an array of Indian and multinational companies.

All such trials will have to end if the court accepts recommendations of the technical panel which was appointed with concurrence of the government.

Jairam Ramesh as environment minister had imposed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of the first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal, in February 2010.

This is the first time a technical panel has specified the period of moratorium as 10 years.

"Ten years is a reasonable length of time for restructuring," the panel said. Representatives of both pro and anti-GM lobbies were heard by the panel.

The committee's recommendations fly in the face of the stand taken by the scientific advisory committee to the PM in favour of the current regulatory system.
2.Supreme Court panel recommends stopping GM crop trials
Jacob P. Koshy
Live Mint & The Wall Street Journal, October 18 2012

*Recommends halting all ongoing open field trials for 10 years until a new set of conditions is enforced

New Delhi: In a severe blow to the future of genetically modified (GM) food crops in the country, a high-level committee appointed by the Supreme Court has recommended stopping all ongoing open field trials on such crops for 10 years until a new set of conditions is enforced.

In spirit, the committee's recommendations are similar to those made by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who’d recommended a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal. These fresh recommendations, however, are more significant as they constitute a key input to the Supreme Court of India, which has been hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a clutch of independent scientists as well as activist organizations.

Key recommendations by the committee include a reassessment of the biosafety data that is generated by field trials; ensuring there is no conflict of interest (that is, those tasked with evaluating the biosafety of GM crops are themselves not stakeholders in promoting such crops); a ban on outsourcing or subcontracting field trials; and ensuring that crops being considered for testing be evaluated by rodent-feeding trials.

The recommendations are significant because the committee was peopled by scientists, said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

"The committee had scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the National Institute of Nutrition, and the decision has followed an extensive review process," said Kuruganti, "But as of today, field trials will be illegal only if the Supreme Court says so."

She added that further deliberations on the case are expected on 29 October.

India's seed industry, several constituents of which have bet on the future of GM crops, described the recommendations as "adverse".

"I haven't seen this report and know no details. But if this is the recommendation, that could have adverse implications for the industry," said V. Ram Kaundinya, managing director, Advanta India Ltd, one of India's largest agrochemical companies with interests in seeds and biotechnology.

The committee's recommendations also come on the back of an August parliamentary panel report criticizing the introduction of Bt cotton as well as tests on GM food crops.

The panel's study on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects was among the most extensive studies conducted by a parliamentary standing committee. The panel received 467 memorandums and 14,862 documents, and reviewed evidence given by 50 organizations during its 27 sittings on the subject.

While the development was discouraging, there will be further debate, said another seed industry executive.
"It's bad news, but there will be more hearings," said K.K. Narayanan, managing director, Metahelix Life Sciences Ltd, which has interests in both GM cotton as well as GM rice. "I don't think it's curtains for the industry yet."
3.Panel of scientists recommends ten-year moratorium on field trials of all genetically modified crops
Economic Times, 19 October 2012

NEW DELHI: A panel of scientists set up on the orders of the Supreme Court has recommended a ten-year moratorium on field trials of all genetically modified or Bt food crops.

The six-member committee of technical experts set up by the Supreme Court came to this conclusion on the basis of the current overall status of food safety evaluation of Bt transgenics, including a review of the data on Bt cotton and Bt brinjal.

The panel submitted an unanimous report calling for moratorium till specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified, and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place. They have said that a panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops must be appointed to scrutinize and analyse safety data. They made it mandatory for inclusion of preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals. Any conflict of interest in the regulatory bodies should be removed.

Given the concerns over the impact on health, environment and other social-economic consideration, the panel's interim report called for a moratorium on field trials of herbicide tolerant crops. The moratorium will be in place until an independent committee of experts and stakeholders "has examined and assessed the potential impact of herbicide tolerant technology and its suitability in the Indian context".

India is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which recognises the crucial importance of biodiversity as a long term resource. In this context, the panel has recommends a ban on field trials of transgenics of those crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity, "as transgenics can contaminate and adversely affect the biodiversity."

The panel calls for re-examination of all biosafety data for applications in process as well as those that have been approved for release. This should be done by scientists who are qualified in biosafety science and experienced in evaluation of biosafety dossiers for transgenic plants. The panel explains that this move is necessary "given the findings of the technical expert committee that there have been several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of the data in the safety dossiers", the Committee recommended that the re-examination, "if necessary, be done by international experts who have the necessary experience".

It also recommended long term and inter-generational studies in rodents to be added to the tests and performed for all products whether already approved or yet to be approved.

The panel comprised eminent scientists --Imran Siddiqui, plant development biology scientist and group leader at the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology; P S Ramakrishnan, emeritus professor of environmental sciences and biodiversity from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University; P C Chauhan, an expert in genetics toxicology and food safety; P C Kesavan, a former BARC scientist noted for his work on genetics toxicology and radiation biology who is currently distinguished fellow, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, and B Sivakumar, former director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. The sixth member recused himself after the panel was announced in May.

The Supreme Court had asked the environment ministry to constitute the panel following hearings on a public interest petition filed by aruna Rodrigues and others seeking a ban on field trials of GM crops.