|Ministerial shift in govt’s new GM crop regulation|
|Dinesh C. Sharma/ Delhi|
|IN A major shift in the regulatory regime for genetically modified ( GM) crops, the government has decided to take away regulatory powers from the environment ministry.
Instead, it has decided to entrust the powers to a centralised three- member committee that will be housed in the ministry of science and technology which is a funding agency for GM crop development.
The chairperson and two members of the proposed regulatory body will be selected by a committee of officials under the convenership of an official of the department of biotechnology, according to the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India ( BRAI) Bill slated to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The state biotechnology advisory committees will function under departments of biotechnology of respective states, furthering the conflict of interest issue.
The Bill also opens up the regulatory body to private sector intervention by permitting four private sector members in the biotechnology advisory committee which is supposed to advice the regulator on matters related to regulatory mechanism.
Currently the genetic engineering appraisal committee ( GEAC), acts as regulatory body for GM crops. Jairam Ramesh, as the environment minister, had imposed a moratorium on commercial release of GM brinjal last year following health and environmental concerns.
Ramesh had also mandated that no GM crops should be introduced without concurrence of states.
In the new regulatory regime, states will have no role. Besides concentrating all powers to three people instead of the 30 members as before, the Bill states that biosafety data of GM crops will not be made public, overriding the RTI Act.
Critics are livid over the new bill. “ When an interministerial body like GEAC could be found lacking rigour or independence so often in the past, how can BRAI with just three members be trusted to take independent decisions?” Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for GM- free India said.
“ The combination of a promoter sitting as regulator and denying information to public is a recipe for an autocratic, non- transparent single window clearance for GM crops,” Greenpeace said in a statement.