Pro-, anti-GM groups find fault with technical panel report mooting halt to crop trials

With the Supreme Court resuming the hearing on the public interest litigation on genetically modified organisms on Friday, scientists and organisations which support and oppose genetical engineering in agriculture have stepped up their campaign.

A group of scientists from India and abroad have appealed to the Supreme Court to reject the recommendations of the five-member Technical Expert Committee.

They termed the committee’s recommendations prejudiced and alleged that they considered information from sources that supported its point of view.

The committee has called for a halt on GM field trials in the country till the regulatory issues are addressed. The scientific community is divided over the issue, putting forth their voices for and against the TEC recommendations.

In an appeal to the apex court, the pro-GM scientists argued that the committee’s suggestion was against the established mainstream science on GM crops’ safety and utility.

“The five members have completely overlooked overwhelming scientific literature that clearly establishes the safety and utility of GM crops under the field conditions. It is tragic that the committee has completely lost scientific objectivity by drawing heavily from the discarded international agricultural assessment that has not been accepted by even a single country in the world,” they argued. “The committee has deliberately overlooked the opinions of leading scientific organisations in the world and in India, and hundreds of peer reviewed scientific publications,” Shanthu Shantharam, Biosafety Institute of the Iowa State University, said in the appeal.

Anti GM camapaign

Meanwhile, The Coalition for a GM-free India, the scientific community that is opposing the introduction of GM in crops, said that the committee members submitted a unanimous report to the Court, reiterating and substantiating their main recommendations in the Interim Report in October 2012.

“A sixth member inducted into the committee, who also happens to carry a conflict of interest in the committee (his organisation is funded by biotech majors), has given his report separately in a sealed envelope the contents of which have not been revealed so far,” Rajesh Krishnan, Co-Convenor of Coalition for GM Free India, said.

“We have written to the court, explaining his conflict of interest in the issue,” he said.

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 22, 2013)
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