NOTE: For background see: Top GM researcher falsified patent claim to grab national award
Association of scientists, activists and farmers demand removal of top GM researcher
India Today, November 10 2012

The controversy surrounding GM food crops in the country shows no signs of cooling down.

Even as the debate over field trials of genetically modified crops rages, a group of scientists, activists, and farmers' associations has demanded removal of a top GM researcher caught in a false patent claim.

In a letter to agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture has sought action against Dr K.C. Bansal, head of India's gene bank, for making a false claim about filing a patent on GM brinjal to grab a top award in 2009, as reported in Mail Today on October 29.

Citing the news report in Mail Today, the letter says "the claim made by Dr Bansal was unscientific and unethical".

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) should institute an inquiry into the patent claim as well as other charges against the scientist, Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the group, said.

In response to Mail Today queries earlier, Dr Bansal gave a different date for filing the patent application than what he gave to an internal committee that had questioned him about the patent claim.

In a related development, the ten-year moratorium on field testing of GM crops recommended by a Supreme Court appointed technical committee has divided the scientific community. In an open letter to the SC bench hearing the case, a group of scientists including some from government labs has appealed to the court to accept moratorium. The moratorium was recommended in the interim report. On Friday, the SC gave the panel six weeks to give its final report.

Meanwhile, ongoing open field trials could continue. About 130 applications for field trials of various GM crops are pending with the ministry of environment and forests. On the other hand, another group of scientists has welcomed SC decision not to accept the technical committee report straight away and to expand the panel by including one more member from the biotechnology community.

Biotech industry lobby, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, maintains that adequate testing and review procedures are in place for safety and utility of GM crops. Meanwhile, the farmer community continues to protest against the GM food crops.

Centre rejects experts report

The Central government on Friday joined the industry in opposing an expert committee report recommending moratorium on open field trial of Genetically Modified (GM) crops for 10 years.

Responding to a direct query from a bench presided over by Justice Swatanter Kumar, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati said: "We are not accepting the report." With the industry also filing objections to the report, the court directed the expert committee to give a final report after considering objections by various parties. The court has directed listing of the matter after the committee submits its report.

Stressing on the need to introduce GM crops, the Centre has said it would not be able to meet the First Millennium Development Goal of cutting the proportion of hungry people by half with such technologies. A moratorium of 10 years would put the country 20 years back in scientific research, it added.