Policy

‘Anti-GMO activists undermining regulator’

| Updated on: Nov 26, 2014
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Biotech agriculture association Head calls stir ‘motivated’

On a day Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Lok Sabha that there was no ban on genetically modified (GM) crop trials, a biotech industry body stated that it was the anti-GMO activists who kept interrupting field trials.

“As an industry, we feel our regulatory system is at par with the world’s best. I don’t understand on what basis activists say they aren’t good enough. Their main contention is that implementation is not good. But the same regulator approves pharmaceuticals, so why is it not good enough for agricultural products?” said Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises’ Agriculture Group.

Past setback

“It’s a motivated campaign and sheds public confidence in the regulatory system which is damaging in the long run but that’s exactly what they want because it delays introduction of the technology,” he added. The industry had faced a setback with a moratorium imposed by the Jairam Ramesh-led Environment Ministry on the transgenic ‘Bt Brinjal’ hybrid in February 2010.

Last month, the Ministry had allowed field trials of two GM varieties of brinjal and mustard by Bejo Seeds and Delhi University, respectively.

“The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved trials but some States have not given no-objection certificates (NOCs). The system for approval does have a little uncertainty since after clearance by the GEAC, the minutes have to be signed by the Minister and only then it becomes operative,” Kaundinya told BusinessLine .

Contradictory issues

“The industry feels that in the next two months there will be positive movement in field trials. As of now, cotton trials are on and only maize among the food crops is being tried out,” he added.

Asked if he felt it was paradoxical for the consumption of imported GM edible oils like Canola to continue unquestioned, while field trials raised concerned voices, Kaundinya said, “Activists and some in the Government talk about GM products being unsafe. But soybean oil from South America is GM, as is Canola from Canada and Australia. If we can allow these products for consumption, like in the EU, then safety clearly isn’t an issue,” he said.

On Wednesday, Javadekar stated that a six-member technical expert committee constituted vide a Supreme Court order to address issues related to GM crop field trials had submitted two reports. Both made recommendations for improving bio-safety regulation in India with five suggesting a halting of trials till recommendations were implemented while the sixth had felt existing GEAC norms were adequate.

Published on November 27, 2017

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