Agri Business

Centre to consider socio-economic factors in GM crop assessment

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018

Farmers in Karnataka carrying out a violent demonstration by destroying the paddy field of DuPont’s GM rice in Bengaluru Rural (file picture)

Draft guidelines coming soon for comments from stakeholders

With the debate on genetically modified (GM) crops getting intense, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is considering the option of putting in place guidelines for socio-economic assessment to judge proposed GM varieties on the basis of factors such as economy, health, environment, society and culture.

“Guidelines on socio-economic considerations will make it easier for the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to decide whether a proposed GM variety should be allowed and help in lessening acrimonious debates between various stakeholders,” a government official told BusinessLine. A model ‘socio economic assessment’ questionnaire for developers who apply for approval of their GM-based crop has been developed as part of a two-year project on developing guidelines, tools and methodologies for socio-economic assessment commissioned by the MoEF.

The findings of a report prepared by Delhi-based research body RIS, — in collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi; GIDR, Ahmedabad; NAARM, Hyderabad; ISEC, Bengaluru; University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur; and TNAU, Coimbatore — will be discussed at length this week by policy makers and experts, after which follow-up action will be taken.

“The MoEF has to decide on putting up the draft guidelines for comments from interested parties, following which the bigger decision on whether it should be made part of the mandatory official guidelines could be taken,” the official added. While India had allowed introduction of Monsanto’s GM cotton seed in 2002, it is yet to allow GM food. Earlier this year, the GEAC deferred its decision on commercial cultivation of GM mustard in the country following deficiencies pointed out by a sub-committee as well as protests by a number of farmer groups.

“The report discusses in detail the factors to be considered to ensure a GM crop does not have any adverse impact on the economy or society, and puts in place a framework for a cost-benefit analysis,” the official said.

The move to come up with socio-economic considerations is in line with the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol (of which India is a signatory) on safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms or GMs.

There are multiple views on GM crops, with supporters stressing on the increase in yield and quality of the produce, and opponents expressing concern over risks to health, environment and small producers.

Published on August 23, 2016

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