Accept expert panel report on GM crops: forum

Gargi Parsai

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/accept-expert-panel-report-on-gm-crops-forum/article4950675.ece

The report is a strong indictment of regulatory affairs: Coalition

Welcoming the recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on Genetically Modified crops, the Coalition for a GM-free India has urged the government to accept the report and “not come in the way of delivery of justice.”

The panel, set up by the Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation, has recommended in its final report that it would not be advisable to conduct any field trials in Bt transgenic crops till gaps in regulatory system are addressed.

“The report is a strong indictment of the state of regulatory affairs with regard to modern biotechnology in the country. We urge that the Central government to take the report seriously and act on it in the interests of food safety, security, and sovereignty as well as protection of environment and farm livelihoods,” the Coalition said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, the Association of Biotech Led Enterprise – Agriculture Group (ABLE AG) that represents the industry has termed the document — though an improvement over the interim report that called for a 10-year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenic in all food crops (those used directly for human consumption) — as “regressive and a troubled treatise” that promises to push Indian agriculture into an archaic age.

“The industry believes the TEC report, besides being incomplete, is also anti-science and anti-research and will severely dent the future of country’s farmers besides destroying the domestic private and public sector research. While improving the testing programmes is a continuous process, we do not believe that testing should be stopped in the interim,’’ said Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, ABLE AG in a press statement.

The report submitted to the Supreme Court has not been signed by R.S. Paroda, the representative of Agriculture Ministry who was inducted after the submission of the interim report last year.

“This is not surprising given the fact that Dr. Paroda’s very inclusion in the Committee was controversial and objectionable — his organisation receives funding from biotech majors like Monsanto and Mahyco — and this constitutes a clear conflict of interest. It is ironical that even this court-appointed committee has had to face such a conflict of interest situation, given that this has been the case with almost all GM-related issues in India so far,” the Coalition’s letter said.

The TEC’s comments with regard to bio-safety dossiers that were approved by the current biotechnology regulator is a scathing indictment of the failings of the existing regulatory regime, the Coalition noted.

The TEC could not find any compelling reason for India to be the first country, where Bt transgenics are widely consumed in large amounts for any major food crop that is directly used for human consumption.

The TEC has therefore reiterated its recommendation made in the Interim Report that there should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food crops, until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to the long-term safety of Bt in food crops.


  • Industry calls report as regressive, biased and a troubled treatise
  • Report not signed by R.S. Paroda, Agriculture Ministry representative

SC Technical Expert Committee recommends ‘GM Field Trials to wait till the regulatory system is improved’

The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court made the following recommendations.

  1. On field trials

    1. Overall recommendation for open field trials: Based on and in particular, “the examination/study of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. 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”
    2. Bt food crops: The TEC “reiterates its recommendation made in the Interim Report that there should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food   crops   (those   that   are   directly   used   for   food)   intended   for commercialization (not research) until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to the long term safety of Bt in food crops”.
    3. Herbicide Tolerant crops: The TEC finds them completely unsuitable in the Indian context and recommends that field trials and release of HT crops ‘   not be allowed in India.”
    4. Crops in their Centre of Origin or Diversity: The TEC therefore recommends that release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity should not be allowed”
    1. 1.      Other recommendations and TOR a &b: Nature and sequencing of risk assessment and point of release for Open Field Trials  (pg 79-83):
    • to introduce a consultation step to start with, ideally prior to the GM product intended for field trials having been developed” , encompassing  the scope of issues that need to be addressed, relating to health and environmental safety — on a  “case-wise basis keeping in mind the overall phases of risk assessment: hazard identification; hazard characterization; exposure assessment; risk characterization; and mitigation options.   Need, socioeconomic factors, and sustainability should also be considered and thoroughly discussed at this stage with involvement of all the stakeholders”.
    • “There is a need to include chronic and trans-generational toxicity testing in feeding studies of rodents based on the fact that food is consumed over the entire lifetime and that nutritional stress can also lead to adverse or unintended effects over long-term exposure. The sensitive stages of reproduction also need to be included.
    • The regulatory process should be open to new scientific information that may have a bearing on the risk assessment, if necessary even after deregulation of an event.
    • The applicant is responsible for providing to the regulator, all information that has a bearing on the risk assessment, regardless of whether it was obtained for the purpose of the risk assessment.
    • Stakeholder participation, need, socioeconomic considerations, societal impact, and sustainability should be some of the dimensions to be incorporated in the risk assessment and this should be done at an early stage in the risk assessment process”.
    • The TEC noted that Post Release Monitoring (PRM) is also an important aspect of environmental safety as well as health safety (if the plant is consumed as food) and this has not received adequate attention in the regulatory system (1R: p3, 9) or in practice.