Decision on others to be considered on April 25, says regulatory body for genetically modified organisms
The much-awaited meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), held on Friday, revalidated trials for 10 genetically engineered crops. The revalidation was for genetically modified (GM) maize, rice, wheat and cotton crops. No new cases were, however, discussed at the meeting.
GEAC chairperson Hem Pande said the new cases would be taken after the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) recommendations in the next meeting which is going to be held on April 25.
This meeting of GEAC, the regulatory body for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was perceived as crucial as it was held after a year following a nod from environment minister Verrappa Moily for GM crop trials in February this year. Moily's predecessor, Jayanthi Natarajan, had taken a more cautious approach and had suspended research and development on GM crops in 2012 when she decided not to approve decisions taken by GEAC.
According to sources, the Friday GEAC meeting was more of stock-taking and discussion. “GEAC revalidated trials for Rabi 2014 as some of the research institutes and companies had managed to get the requisite no objection certificate (NOC) from the respective states or were likely to get them,” said a GEAC member. A few other applications were sent back with queries. He added that the field trials, which were allowed for Rabi 2014, were mostly for maize in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat.
Till the filing of this report, GEAC was yet to upload its agenda and decision on its website. While Moily’s predecessors Jairam Ramesh and Natarajan had tried to maintain transparency on the controversial GM crops by uploading the agenda and decisions on the website for public viewing, this time the agenda was not made public.
The resumption of GEAC meetings would be a welcome move for the Rs 10,000 crore seed industry in India which has been waiting for the field trials for their newly developed GM crops with different traits like drought resistance, salt tolerance and others for the past two years. The private sector has invested more than Rs 1,000 crore on research and claimed it was incurring losses due to no progress in GEAC.
Public research in the country is also focused on GM crops with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Union ministry of agriculture endorsing the technology and dedicating most of the research funds to the technology.
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