India Should Be More Wary of GM Crops, Parliamentary Panel Says
NEW DEHLI—A high-profile Indian parliamentary panel on agriculture has urged a retreat from genetically modified (GM) food crops and is seeking the mandatory labelling of all GM foods. The report from a 31-member standing panel of parliament, delivered today, concludes that GM “field trials under any garb should be discontinued forthwith” and that future research and development should “only be done under strict containment.”
The panel undertook their review, the authors say, because of “serious differences of opinion amongst stakeholders and the controversies surrounding transgenic food crops.” The furor intensified after a government review gave its blessing to genetically modified brinjal (a type of eggplant).
The panel’s deliberations, designed to include many interested parties, gathered 15,000 pages of testimony and 50 oral depositions. The 2-year effort produced a 492-page analysis, “Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects.”
The panel chair, Basudeb Acharia, a member of parliament representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said in a statement that “India should not go in for GM food crops.” He also suggested that “there is a connection” between Bt cotton, a GM product that includes genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to make it pest-resistant, and farmers’ suicides, referring to thousands of farmers who have committed suicide in the last few years due to indebtedness, mostly in cotton growing regions.
India is another of the key battlegrounds over GM crops. Monsanto’s GM cotton has been commercialized there but has provoked considerable controversy. And a huge public and scientific outcry stopped GM Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine) from being commercialised as India’s first GM food crop.
*10-year Moratorium on field trials of Bt food crops
*Moratorium on field trials of Herbicide Tolerant crops (till independent assessment of impact and suitability) and
*Ban on field trials of GM crops for which India is a Centre of Origin/Diversity
In an Interim Report signed off on 7th October 2012 (D.No.1944/2005/SC/PIL in the Assistant Registrar PIL (WRIT)’s office, dated 17th October 2012), a 5-member Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005, with Aruna Rodrigues and others as the petitioners in a PIL pertaining to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), unanimously presented its view that all field trials should be stopped until the following conditions have been met:
i) Specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place.
ii) A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops has been engaged for scrutiny and analyses of the safety data.
iii) Conflict of interest in the regulatory body has been removed (as discussed above).
iv) The requirement for preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.
More importantly, the TEC recommended the following with regard to certain classes of products:
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