Lie of the land: Only 39 of 133 GM crop field trials monitored in 6 years
The Centre has always claimed that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism
  • Genetically modified or genetically engineered crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones

Busting the claims of the Indian government and scientists that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism to test genetically modified (GM) crops, toxic loopholes are emerging. From 2008 to 2014, only 39 of the 133 GM crop were properly monitored, leaving the rest for unknown risks and possible health hazards to common people.

Documents accessed by dna reveals that the GMO regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of environment and forests, has failed to comply with the monitoring norms and practices on the confined field trials. Even in the 39 cases where the GM monitoring was done, it was not uniform.

or genetically engineered (GE) crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones. Once prepared in laboratories, they are tested in fields, which is called confined field trials. The field trial always has a risk of pollen-driven contamination, which is uncontrollable.

Documents with dna reveals that, in 2008, only four out of 12 trials, that is 1/3 rd of trials, were monitored. The Central Compliance Committee (CCC) and monitoring-cum-evaluation committee, during their tenures, visited the sites only once while they were supposed to go at least four times during the trials. Similarly in 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and only one visit of CCC was recorded.

In 2008, only four out of 12 trials were monitored by just one visit of CCC and the monitoring cum- evaluation committee. In 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and one visit of CCC was recorded. The very next year, 14 out of 54 trials were monitored and only one trial has the monitoring details. The monitoring data for 2011 shows that five out of 16 trials were monitored and that too have minimal external monitoring from the regulators’ side. Even when the CCC found illegalities, no action was taken.

Incidentally, 2011 was the same year when biotech giant Monsanto’s maize trials were tested at Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Gujarat. The documents show that the CCC report was presented and a record of harvest also exists with signatures of the trial in-charge. However, there was no post-trial visit to the site by the monitoring team.

The same year, in another plot of AAU, housed at Derol, Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Bt Maize was planted but the sowing date is unrecorded. Only two of the four-member team visited the trial site.

In 2013, Monsanto and another transnational company, Syngenta Biosciences, were allowed to hold five field trials but only two of these were monitored, with one visit each. Interestingly, this happened despite one trial witnessing a huge protest/destruction by the public.

In 2014, three GM mustard trials of Delhi University were taken up – at two sites in Punjab and one in Delhi – during the rabi season. There are enough evidences that there were no post-harvesting fool-proof monitoring in these cases. Similarly, in Maharashtra’s Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri, field trials of Monsanto’s GM maize were undertaken, but there was no post-trial monitoring.

Despite these deficiencies and failures in the regulatory mechanism, the Centre has claimed in public debates as well as in the Supreme Court that everything about the regulatory system is healthy, rigorous and perfect.

Ironically, documentary evidence proves the opposite. Officials of MoEF and GEAC did not reply to dna queries.

Monitoring of GE plants is very important because they have posed high risks and cause uncontrollable contamination. This is undertaken at various stages like pre-sowing, sowing, and various stages of crop development, like harvest and post-harvest land use restriction. The monitoring agencies also have the authority to investigate contained facilities that may be used for storing regulated GE plant material.

From time to time, the GEAC has delegated the authority to monitor confined field trials to various bodies like RCGM’s Monitoring cum Evaluation Committee (MEC), SBCCs, DLCs, monitoring teams of state agricultural universities (SAUs) and Central Compliance Committee (CCC) constituted by GEAC/RCGM.

SC-appointed Technical Expert Committee says
Ban three kinds of GM crops
Herbicide-tolerant crops:
These are crops genetically modified for a chemical substance, so that when it is sprayed, it kills the entire flora around the crop, except itself. India does not need this technology.
Bt food crops: Food crops inserted with Bt genes should not be allowed as a lot of evidences show the harmful impact of Bt genes.
India is the centre of origin of various crops and has a wide diversity in those crops. So the country should not genetically modify such crops. This approach is taken by several countries, including China, as it has not permitted GM soybean since it’s the centre of origin of the crop.

Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials

#GMFieldTrails #GMFreeIndia
Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials.
Urges it to keep our food and farming free of GMOs

The Coalition for a GM Free India today congratulated the Central govt on responding to the growing scientific evidence and opposition fromstate governments against Genetically Modified (GM) crops and putting a hold on all open field trials approved in March, 2013. According tomedia reports the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to reverse the permissions given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in March, 2013, given that there is a case in the Supreme Court on the matter and there is a need for widespread deliberations on a matter of such significance.

Reacting to the this new development Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM free India said, “It is heartening to see that theMinistry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the Union Government are finally being responsible to science and responsive to the citizensin the matter of open air experiments of risky GM crops.” He further stated, “One hopes that the government will not be arm twisted to permitopen environmental releases/field trials of GM crops by the powerful biotech seed industry and their promoters within the government”.

Earlier this week GEAC had put out the minutes of March 22nd meeting in the public domain after a delay of almost 2 months . The minutesshowed that the 16 member GEAC has given approvals for almost all the applications that they had received on field trials of GM crops. Thisincludes GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, cotton and castor. There were 25 applications which included majority of which were forextension of the approvals given last year, and which couldn’t be conducted due to State governments denying permission or refusing to giveNOC for field trials in the respective states. One of the permissions pertained to RoundUp Ready Wheat by Mahyco, with the American seedgiant Monsanto’s proprietary technology.

RR wheat and Monsanto has been embroiled in the latest GM contamination scandal in USA, where RR wheat from field trials done yearsago was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon State. While Monsanto and USDA, which gave permissions for these trials, are still unable to findthe reasons for this contamination, American farmers have been severely impacted with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the EuropeanUnion banning or restricting imports of wheat owing to threat of GM contamination. A similar contamination had rocked the US in 2006 whenfield trials of herbicide tolerant GM rice, LL rice, of Bayer, had ended up contaminating the rice supply chain. Bayer Crop Science had tofinally settle a class action suit filed by affected farmers for 750 million US dollars. Interestingly the LL rice of Bayer has also been approvedfor field trials by GEAC in the last meeting.

“It is shocking that even after repeated lessons on how field trials can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply GEAC is mindlesslygiving approvals for field trials left right and centre. This, despite published evidence on the impacts of GM crops on human health, ourbiodiversity and farmers livelihoods and repeated statements by state governments denying permission for such open field trials” said ArunaRodrigues, one of the petitioners of the PIL on stopping all environmental releases/field trials of GM crops. The Union of India is therespondent in the case. She further stated that “GEAC seems to be in a hurry to permit field trials disregarding the fact that the SupremeCourt is slated to hear on the final report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) it has set up to look into this matter”.

The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) comprising of experts from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition scienceetc was set up by Supreme Court., In October 2012, it submitted its interim report highlighting the potential impacts of GM crops and theinadequacy of the existing regulatory system to assess the impacts of GM crops to human health, environment and socio-economic aspectsand to safely conduct field trials. It has recommended a total revamping of the system, pointing to the potential impacts to agro biodiversity,which is critical for further development of crops. It has also recommended against genetic modification of crops like rice for which India is acentre of origin. Besides this, it has also reccomended a 10 year moratorium on any open release/field trials of Bt crops and a moratorium onherbicide tolerant HT crops until an independent assessment is done on its impacts on human health, environment and farm livelihoods.

Hundreds of scientists, atleast 20 farmer Unions and more than 500 public-interest organisations had sent letters to the Supreme Courtendorsing the recommendations of the TEC’s interim report.

The Coalition for a GM free India hails this decision by the MoEF to withhold the permissions for field trials across the country. It further requested that the MoEF should inform respective state govt. about its decision. The State Governments should stop giving permissions in the state & if permitted, they should inform project proponents to stop field trials with immediate effect.

The Coalition for a GM free India also urges the Union government not to bow to pressures from multinational seed corporations and stand bythe interests of the citizens of the country. Reiterating the demand to keep our food and farming free from GM crops, it also urged thegovernment to drop the BRAI Bill and instead bring in a regulatory system that would safeguard biosafety from the introduction of riskytechnologies like GM crops.

For more information

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205)

Kavitha Kuruganthi (09393001550)

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food andfarms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

Coalition for a GM-free India

A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

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