Friday, April 13, 2012

GM trials hit hurdle

States say no, GM trials hit hurdle
By Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
April 13, 2012

India’s biotechnology regulator will be apprising the state governments of benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) food crops as country’s biotechnology industry is hitting a roadblock because of many states saying no to GM crops.

The latest in the list is Congress ruled Rajasthan which has refused to allow field trials of GM crops. ”No trials of GM crops should be conducted in the State until final decision in this matter is taken,” said an order issued by state government. ”The government, after considering different aspects of it, has taken a view to wait until a national consensus is evolved.”

Like many other state governments Rajasthan government also felt that unless the Central government decides on the fate of GM food crops such as BT Brinjal, on whose commercial release environment ministry issued a moratorium in 2010, the field trials may not be allowed.

Most of the bigger states such as Bihar, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had refused to give no-objection certificate for field trials.

In the wake of ban, big bio-technology companies have not been left with many options to conduct field trials of genetically modified food crops such as tomato, cabbage and maize. The only viable option is Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, said an bio-tech company official, not willing to be quoted.

This week scientists and bio-technology companies apprised the bio-tech regulator Genetically Engineered Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the environment ministry of the roadblock that has emerged after former environment minister Jairam Ramesh made consent of state governments for field trials mandatory.

”It is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct field trial of varieties developed in the laboratory because of state government objections. We need a way out or else the bio-technology is on its way to death,” said a leading bio-tech scientist and member of GEAC.

In the wake of this, the GEAC has decided to write to state governments about the importance of GM crops and consider every case instead of imposing a blanket ban.

The committee is also of the view that the trials are conducted in a secured place and the possibility of contamination of any kind was bare minimum. It is also willing to provide additional powers to the state government to monitor the trials. ”Field trials should be become victim over politics on release of GM crops for commercial purpose,” a senior environment ministry official said.

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