Agri Business

Govt to reconstitute body to regulate GM crops soon

Vishwanath Kulkarni Harish Damodaran New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018


3-year term ended in June 2012; applications seeking nod for field trials pile up

Having relented on the requirement to seek relevant Gram Sabha approval for building of roads, canals and other ‘linear’ projects involving diversion of forest land, the Environment Ministry is now set to act on another contentious area: Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is the official body for approving commercial release as well as field trials of GM products, will be formally reconstituted “in the next one or two weeks”, the Union Minster for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan told Business Line.

The three-year term of the last GEAC technically ended on June 8 last year, with its last meeting to screen applications held on April 11. Since then, neither has it been reconstituted, leave alone met.

Files get stacked

In the meantime, there are about 50 applications currently before the biotech regulator, seeking permission for undertaking confined fields trials or extending these to new locations.

These include not only those from multinationals such as DuPont/Pioneer (9 applications), Bayer CropScience (5), Monsanto (3), Syngenta/Devgen (3), and BASF (1), but even domestic private players such as Mahyco (4) and DCM Shriram Consolidated (2).

Apart from these, trials for some important GM crop events developed by public sector research entities – especially the hybrid mustards developed by a team under Delhi University’s former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental, the transgenic Bt cottons of the Central Institute for Cotton Research at Nagpur, and a late blight virus-resistant potato of the Shimla-based Central Potato Research Institute – are also now stuck for want of regulatory go-ahead.


Incidentally, February 9 would mark three years since the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced a ‘moratorium’ on the commercial release of India’s first ever GM food crop – the Bt brinjal developed by Mahyco.

“Since then, forget commercialisation, the Government has practically declared a moratorium on even GM research. What research can you do if even field trials are not allowed, and the body that is supposed to approve these has ceased to exist for the last eight months”, an industry official pointed out.

Interestingly, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture had, in August, recommended that all field trials in GM crops be “discontinued forthwith”.

This was followed two months later by a Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee, which called for 10-year ban, extending the precautionary principle invoked earlier vis-à-vis commercial cultivation to field trials as well.



Published on February 06, 2013

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