The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, which is holding nationwide consultation on the issue of genetically modified foods, has posed some tough questions to Andhra Pradesh Government with regard to trials of GM crops and their impact on soil health, health of human beings.

Led by its Chairman Mr Basudeb Acharya, the committee held discussions with farmers, officials, and representatives from non-governmental organisations and agriculture universities.

Heated arguments were exchanged with pro and anti biotech groups trying to push their opinions before the Standing Committee. Keeping in view the opposition to the moves by agriculture biotech companies to introduce GM crops in the country, the Union Government had asked the committee to study and submit a report on Cultivation of GM Crops – Prospects and effects.

Opposition

Mr Satyavrat Chaturvedi, MP, said that there was no opposition for (agri) biotechnology in the country when cotton was introduced.

“Since it is not a food crop no one opposed. But people are now opposing because it is a food crop which might impact people's health and environment. Rich countries such as France, Germany and Japan too expressed reservations. What is your policy with regard to GM food? Are you favourable or against it,” he asked representatives from the State Government.

He also wanted to know the mechanism the Government planned, to let people distinguish between GM and non-GM food.

Another member of the panel, also expressed concerns about cross pollination and contamination of traditional crops with some GM attributes. r Nagireddy, Principal Secretary (Agriculture, Govt of AP), said that his government was not against trials being taken place under controlled conditions. “We are very cautious (on allowing GM foods). We expect more data to come to take a decision on this,” he said.

Report submission

Mr Acharya told Business Line that the committee would submit a report to Parliament in the next session. “We have received more than 5,000 memoranda on the subject from across the country. We would have 25 discussions before we complete the process in the next few days,” he said.

(This article was published on July 6, 2011)
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