NEW DELHI: With an ongoing debate over commercialisation of GM crops in the country, the environment ministry’s genetically modified crop appraisal committee has cleared nearly 80 percent of proposals seeking to conduct field trials of GM crops in eight meetings held since the NDA government took over in May 2014.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been under lot of pressure from the RSS frontal organizations Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bhartiya Kissan Sangh which have been opposing the field trails and commercialization of GM crops in the country.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) considered 51 proposals for controlled trails of GM crops like various varieties of rice, sugarcane, maize, brinjal, potato, mustard and chickpea.
The committee has so far cleared 40 projects for field trials, deferred decision on eight owing to reasons like seeking expert opinion and three were withdrawn. The first meeting of the GEAC under the new regime was held on August 28, 2014 and the latest being March 4, 2016.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has favoured field trials of GM crops and has said that research in GM and confined field trials for generating bio-safety data with all due precautions should be allowed to continue in national interest.
Calling GM crops unwanted and unsafe, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has last year asked the government to stop their field trials, which are being cleared in a great hurry. The ministry has held consultative meeting with scientists and SJM to accommodate views of all stakeholders.
There is a debate going in the country over introduction of GM crops with some agriculturists pitching for it saying it’s important for country’s food security while other opposing it.
Bt Cotton is the only GM crops legally allowed for commercial release in India. A moratorium on bt brinjal was put in February 2010 by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh after protest from civil society organisations and farmers. The government had called for scientific study and evolving a consensus on the issue.
A Supreme Court technical expert committee in 2013 had recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops till the government comes out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, in a report August 2012 had asked for ban on GM food crops in the country, while industry has been calling for their introduction to ensure food security.