|Field trials of GM crops trigger new row in India (1/8/2007)|
EXTRACT: Citing reports by the monitoring authority..., Prof. TK Bose, a member of the commission, had alleged that Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds company (Mayco [Monsanto's subsidiary]) has conducted illegal field trials on Bt brinjal, Bt tomato without following bio safety measures and monitoring as suggested by DBT [the Department of Biotechnology] although they were given permission only for trials on Bt rice and Bt okra (ladies finger). He had demanded legal action against the company.
Field trials of GM crops trigger row
*Field trials for the genetically modified (GM) varieties of eight major food crops, including rice, potato, mustard and tomato, are in the pipeline but guess how prepared India is?
Field trials of genetically modified crops in the state have triggered off a war of letters between some members of the state agriculture commission and the department of biotechnology under the Union science and technology ministry.
The department of biotechnology under GOI has brushed aside allegations of illegal field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in North 24 Parganas and a lax regulatory system, as raised by some members of the state agriculture commission. The commission itself, however, plans to discuss the issue of GM contamination and human hazards, in its coming meetings.
Citing reports by the monitoring authority, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (BCKV), Prof. TK Bose, a member of the commission, had alleged that Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds company (Mayco) has conducted illegal field trials on Bt brinjal, Bt tomato without following bio safety measures and monitoring as suggested by DBT although they were given permission only for trials on Bt rice and Bt okra (ladies finger). He had demanded legal action against the company.
BCKV had informed DBT that biosafety protocols were not adhered to during the trials. Moreover, the monitoring visit was timed when the trials were at a finishing stage and the university was not consulted about site selection, trial details and methodology followed .
However, Dr KK Tripathi, advisor, DBT has dismissed these allegations of conducting illegal trials without informing regulatory authority as being "unfounded" since both the chief secretary and commissioner of agriculture of the state were informed about the trials. While admitting that the company did not seek permission for conducting field trials for GM tomato or brinjal crop he explained that the presence of such crops was probably due to the practice of "seed companies to keep testing their different hybrids (non GM) in different locations for agronomic performance and evaluation. This is reiterated because no company can do any GM trial without adhering to the conditions specified in the permit letter and cannot abandon it the way indicated in your letter."
He has also argued that the regulatory system put in place by the Government of India has been functioning effectively in regulating the DNA research and GM product commercialisation in the country in respect to biosafety as well as various risk benefit analysis and socio-economic issues.
Prof. Bose has countered Dr Tripathi's arguments in a recent letter saying that the report of BCKV has been ignored. He has also pointed out that in small holdings in states like West Bengal it would be impossible to protect non GM variety from contamination with pollens of GM hybrids or keep an isolation of 200 metres.
When contacted, Prof. RN Basu, chairman of the commission, said it would give its own recommendations on the use of GM seeds in the state.