Fruitful talks

Between NGOs, expert body on GM crops issue

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Taking activists along (Credit: Greenpeace)transparency in the regulatory system that governs agro-biotechnology in India, learning from the experience of industrialised countries and setting specific domestic priorities. These were some of the suggestions made by civil society groups during their November 18 consultations with the Union ministry of agriculture's task force.

The body has been created to draft a long-term policy on applications of biotechnology in agriculture. It is headed by eminent agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan and is also to suggest modifications in the existing uses of agro-biotech. In this regard, the task force is expected to propose changes in the present administrative set-up and procedures concerning genetically modified (gm) crops.

India's system of regulating gm crops is very poor and involves too many departments and ministries. The task force will recommend ways to harmonise the work of these agencies. The non-governmental organisations (ngos) present during the discussions included the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and National Resource Policy; Gene Campaign; Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education; and Greenpeace Environment Trust. These groups have consistently flayed the government's approach towards gm crops.

Almost all the ngos expressed alarm at the shortage of information on how gm crops can cross-pollinate, and the dangers this might pose to the biological diversity of the country. The representatives, however, appreciated the fact that the task force was open to advice from the civil society.

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