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Environment ministry ignores states' opposition, approves GM trials

Times Of India (New Delhi), 19th JUne, 2013

The environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared field trials for genetically modified rice, wheat, maize and castor for the Kharif season of 2013.

The clearances - some of them extension of existing clearances that stood to lapse with state governments opposing field trials and others for relocating trial sites - come while the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill is pending before the standing committee of Parliament and the Supreme Court is yet to pass a verdict in a case challenging the existing regulatory mechanism for GM crops in the country.

Clearances for another 53 field trials are pending with the statutory GEAC now.

Bayer Bioscience Limited has got open-ended clearance to test GM rice in all four regions of the country. The open-ended clearance will allow the company to carry out the tests wherever it can convince the state governments. A final nod from state governments is mandatory for field trials. Biotech companies have been complaining for a while about some states' unwillingness. The blanket permission will now help the companies move to convenient states. Mayhco and BASF India Limited too have got the nod to carry out trials on GM rice.

The Hyderabad-based Directorate of Oilseeds Research's GM castor field tests have been re-approved. It had the permission earlier too which had lapsed owing to lack of approval from the Andhra Pradesh government.

Monsanto India Limited has been given clearance to field test its GM maize at alternate sites in several states after it found opposition from the states it had earlier got the clearance for from the Union government.

Mayhco has on the other hand been given an extended clearance for its trials of GM wheat after the company had failed to get the green light from the state government.

Besides these food crops, the GEAC has also given the nod for further field testing of various GM cotton varieties by Bayer, BASF and Mayhco.