Govt told to examine GM crops’ impact before rollout decision
A parliamentary panel says that an independent evaluation of biosafety is needed before the introduction of GM crops
New Delhi: A parliamentary panel on Friday pulled up the government for moving with haste towards commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops, and said it should thoroughly examine the impact of GM crops on the environment before taking a final call.
Unless the biosafety and socioeconomic desirability of GM crops is evaluated by an independent and transparent process, and a retrieval and accountability regime is put in place, no GM crop should be introduced, said the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and environment and forests. Imported GM foods should be labelled as such with immediate effect, it added.
The report was submitted by the panel, which is headed by Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury, to the Rajya Sabha chairman on Friday.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is due to take a final call on allowing or rejecting the commercialization of GM crops.
The Supreme Court, which is hearing a case against GM mustard, was told by the NDA government in July that it is likely to take a final decision on the commercial rollout of the crop by September.
Criticizing the ministry of environment, forest and climate change and the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal regulator for GM crops in India, the standing committee said they should shrug off their “complacency and be more focused in their approach in the matter”.
The panel expressed concerns about the criteria adopted by the environment ministry for selection of GEAC members and their credentials while noting that two of the top three positions in the committee are held by bureaucrats of the environment ministry and that there is a conflict of interest in the appointment of some members.
It recommended that the environment ministry review the functioning of the GEAC and take corrective measures to make the whole process of the assessment and approval of GM crops more transparent.
On 11 May, the GEAC recommended approval for the commercial production of GM mustard, which has been developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants. At present, cotton is the only genetically modified crop allowed in India.
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