GEAC backs off GM food trials, accepts 0.01% threshold (23/6/2007)

1.Comment from Aruna Rodrigues
2.GEAC PUTS STRINGENT CONDITIONS - ISAAA says GM trials now impossible
3.GEAC denies nod for multi location trials of GM food crops
1.Comment from Aruna Rodrigues, the chief-petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation before India's Supreme Court:

The GEAC [India's key regulatory body for GM field trials] has stated that they will allow field trials of GM food crops once a validated protocol for contamination at a LOD (Level of Detection) of 0.01 per cent is submitted by the Applicants and approved. The fact is that this condition is pure illusion, a GEAC distortion of the Supreme Court ORDER of the 8th May 2007. The S. Court on the 8th May did not lift its Order of the 22nd September 2006; and therefore it continues to bar fresh approvals of all field trials including Bt cotton.

No matter the guise under which the GEAC is acting, even so, it is a positive thing that the GEAC has taken note of the legal notice sent to them by Petitioners' counsel, Prashant Bhushan, which warned that we would be forced to file for 'contempt of Court' if it carried out its agenda.

Contamination through field trials is a fact; so also the consequent threat to biodiversity and human and animal health. There is tangible relief therefore, that we have been able to stop these GM food crop field trials.
Govt says no to GM crops
From Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi:

India may have to wait for years to witness the entry of a genetically modified food crop in the market as the centre has come out with an approval condition that the experts are saying is "impossible" to meet.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on Friday has asked the agro-biotech companies to submit "validated protocol for detection of 0.01 per cent level contamination" before clearing multi-location research trials of genetically modified rice, okra, maize and brinjal, official sources said.

This means unless the crop developers are able to find out how would they spot presence of trace amount of bt protein (0.01 per cent) which may have been leaked to other non-target plants, the centre will not approve multi-location trials, which is a must before commercial release.

"But such a stringent contamination detection level is unheard of anywhere in the world. The technology simply does not exist," Bhagirath Choudhary, the India representative of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) told Deccan Herald.

Best standard

The best standard is from the European Union which stipulates a detection level of 0.9 per cent. The Japanese standard is five per cent while the USA does not have any detection level standards.

Arguing that contamination should not be an issue till large scale trial, Mr Choudhary said such a step might also ruin the research in the green house as 0.01 per cent contamination is a common occurrence there. The technology to detect such low level of contamination simply doesn't exist.

Even as the research was going on for quite some time, the anti-GM activists including have protested time and again on any governmental plan for allowing their commercialisation.

The GEAC did not approve six transgenic bt rice hybrids, three GM bt okra hybrids and bt brinjal being developed at places like University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.

Round up ready corn hybrids that can survive a particular insecticide, yield guard corns with higher productivity and flex cotton hybrids that produces better quality yarns were also not approved by the committee.

Interestingly, the committee has approved import of soybean oil obtained from round-up ready Soybean by the Solvent Extractors' Association of India.

Large scale field trials of new varieties of bt cotton expressing new genes did not get approval as the bio-safety studies are inadequate. This includes cotton hybrids expressing Cry1C gene, sources said.
3.GEAC denies nod for multi location trials of GM food crops
Financial Express, June 23 2007

NEW DELHI, JUN 22:  The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not approved multi-locational research trials (MLRT) of genetically modified (GM) food crops. The field trials of GM crops, which was on the agenda for Friday's discussion included six Bt rice hybrids, three Bt okra hybrids, two GM corn crops, eight Bt eggplant hybrids.

The committee had asked seed companies concerned to submit validated protocol for detection of 0.01% level of genetic contamination, subject to which the field trials of GM food crops would be considered.

The GEAC, however, approved the procedure for import of soyoil extracted from Roundup Ready Soybeans as proposed by Solvent Extractors' Association of India .

The GEAC, in its 78th meeting on Friday, approved MLRT of several Bt cotton hybrids expressing genes and events which were earlier approved. It also approved strip trials of Bt cotton hybrids expressing genes and events approved earlier. GEAC allowed experimental seed production of Bt cotton hybrids in different parts of the country.

Permission to conduct MLRT of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/ events have been approved. This includes BG I cotton hybrids, BG II cotton hybrid, cry1Ac gene, 3 intra-hirsutum hybrids, 2 inter-specific hybrids, 3 inter-specific hybrids, 5 Bt cotton hybrids, Bollgard cotton hybrids has been given.

The MLRT will be done in central and south zones at various locations. The committee has also approved the proposal for strip trials of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/events. This will cover 35 Bt cotton hybrids, 115 transgenic Bt cotton hybrids, 29 intra-specific Bt cotton hybrids and others will be included.

Experimental seed production of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/events has also been given approval. The Large Scale Field Trials of Bt cotton expressing new gene/events did not get approval because they did not complete full bio-safety studies. This include cotton hybrids expressing Cry1C gene and seed production of cotton hybrids

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