Even as the country’s biotech regulatory authority — Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) — has given its approval for experimental field trials of 12 Genetically Modified (GM) crops for generating biosafety data, the Gujarat government has decided not to give permission to biotech companies to carry out field trials of any GM food crops.
The 12 crops for which GEAC has given its approval are rice, castor, cotton, wheat, maize, groundnut, potato, sorghum, brinjal, mustard, sugarcane and chickpea. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar also supported GEAC stand in his reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. He took the plea that there was no scientific evidence to prove that GM crop or food had adverse impact on health of the soil, human health and environment.
But the Gujarat government has, however, so far permitted field trial for cotton only. It has refused to give permission for other crops saying that these were food crops and the state government can not take any risk involving health of the people as also environment.
Principal Secretary (Agriculture) Raj Kumar said that GEAC’s approval was conditional because agriculture is a state subject. “The field trials or commercial production can be done only after the state government gives permission,” he explained.
State Agriculture Minister Babubhai Bokhiria told this reporter that his department had decided not to give permission for field trials of GM food crops. “I will not allow it at all,” said Bokhiria. He said that several representatives of GM companies, local as well as multi-nationals, had approached him in the last several months explaining about the benefits of GM crops but he turned down their requests. He said that they even offered to conduct confined trials in state universities to ensure that GM crops did not contaminate the local varieties. “But I was not satisfied with their explanations,” the minister said.
Bokhiria said he had discussed the issue with the local scientists. And the overwhelming response was against GM crops.
“We want to protect the local varieties and hence, we can’t permit GM crops,” he clarified. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) which had taken a lead in opposing introduction of GM crops during UPA government, has welcomed the state government’s decision. BKS state secretary Manibhai Patel said that the claim of biotech scientists that GM crops were resistant to pests and insects, was wrong. He said the companies dealing in GM seeds were more interested in promotion of their businesses and they were least concerned about the health of the soil, human beings and environment.