India: Panel recommends halt on GM crop trials
A Supreme Court appointed panel have recommended that an indefinite hold be put on open field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops until such time as the flaws in the regulatory and safety systems are properly addressed.
"Based on the examination of the safety dossiers, the Technical Expert Committee has found in unambiguous terms that at present, the regulatory system has major gaps and these will require rethinking, investment and relearning to fix. 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. A deeper understanding of the process of risk assessment is needed within the regulatory system for it to meet the needs of a proper bio-safety evaluation," the final report states.
If the recommendations are implemented it could have huge consequences for the commercialisation of GM crops.
According to the report the quality of information in several of the applications is far below what is required for rigorous evaluation by a regulatory body and is unlikely to meet international regulatory guidelines. The committee has suggested setting up a secretariat comprising dedicated scientists with area and bio-safety expertise. It has suggested collaborating with the Norwegian government and the GM regulatory body as it "is one of the few that are attuned to considering socio-economic issues that would be important in the Indian context." It recommends that the new bio-technology regulatory be housed in the environment and health ministry, identification of specific sites for conducting of field tests and mandatory stakeholder participation as part of risk-management strategy. The Technical Expert Committee suggested that trials should be only allowed on land owned by GM crop applicant and not on leased land.
There are currently 91 applications for field trial before the GEAC, of which 44 are GM food crops.
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