Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gujarat 11th State to Say ‘No’ to GM Trials

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New Indian Express | Oct 10, 2014 | Richa Sharma

NEW DELHI: Joining a list of 10 states that have rejected open trials of the controversial Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India, the Gujarat Government on Thursday denied giving a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to trials for edible crops.

“Field trials for edible crops will not be awarded an NOC. Only non edible crops will be awarded an NOC for field trails in Gujarat,” said a formal communication by the Gujarat Agriculture and Co-operation Department, in response to a letter by Kapil Shah, of an organisation working for the promotion of ecological farming in the state.

Talking about the field trials, the letter said: “After due consideration, based on the various presentations received by this office, it is decided that the NOCs will not be given to food crops.”

Gujarat became the 11th state after Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who have already rejected trials of GM crops. An NOC is a statutory requirement from the state governments for conducting open air trials.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in July cleared field trials for 15 GM crops, including  major crops like rice, chickpea, brinjal and mustard, among others. But, it was put on hold, following pressure from RSS-backed outfits Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bhartiya Kisan Sangh.

Cotton is the only GM crop legally allowed for commercial release in India. A moratorium on  brinjal was put in February 2010, by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, after protests from civil society organisations and farmers. The government had called for a scientific study and evolving a consensus on the issue.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had granted approvals for 47 such trials, involving GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, cotton, brinjal, mustard, potato, sugarcane and chickpea across the country. There is a debate going in the country over the introduction of GM crops, with some agriculturists pitching for it, saying it’s important for country’s food security, and others opposing it.

Last year, a Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee had recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops, till the government came out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism.

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

Agriculture activists welcomed the move, saying there was no dearth of scientific evidence to show that GM crops posed a serious threat to human health and biodiversity.

“It is heartening that a leading agricultural state like Gujarat has recognised that field trials of GMOs are the first environmental release of untested, unknown new organisms in nature and has decided to take a precautionary approach towards it,” said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India.

Source: GM Watch

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