Supreme Court committee says no to GM crops

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) A Supreme Court technical expert committee Monday recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops till the government comes out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism.

The expert committee in its report to the Supreme Court said there should be a moratorium on field trials for Genetically Modified food crops like Bt Brinjal intended for commercialization until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to their long-term safety.

"Based on the examination of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered. Till such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials," it said.

On the genetic modification of crops for which India is a centre of origin like rice, brinjal, and mustard, the committee recommended that "release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity should not be allowed".

The expert committee also said a no to the herbicide tolerant (HT) crops, saying they would most likely exert a highly adverse impact over time on sustainable agriculture, rural livelihoods and environment.

The report comes at a time when there are differences over the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013, which is pending with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest.

In 2010, the then environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh imposed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial introduction of GM brinjal following several public hearings.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, in a report August 2012 had asked for ban on GM food crops in the country, while industry has been calling for their introduction to ensure food security.

More than 150 scientists wrote to the Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan early this year, raising concerns about GM crops.

Their primary concern was that the agriculture ministry is allegedly making a case for GM crops by stating that the technology is absolutely needed for India's food security.

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