Environment and Forests Minister Veerappa Moily has confirmed to The Indian Express that field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops will be supported by his ministry and it will be reflected in the joint affidavit that will be filed before the Supreme Court very soon.
Saying that the benefits of science and technology must “percolate” to every segment of society, Moily said field trials of GM crops will be backed in keeping with the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) but with “crop-specific dedicated monitoring and protocol system”.
He said, “GM field trials is a matter agitating in the minds of the people for the last several years. Anywhere in the world, scientific benefits have to percolate down to society. If we want to prevent research and science, no modern country will be born. We are using science everywhere, in every sector. Why do you prevent in agriculture sector?”
Moily said it was not his decision to back GM field trials but one that had been recommended by the CoS before he took over the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The CoS, he said, had decided on a joint affidavit to be filed by the ministries of Earth Sciences, Agriculture and Environment and submitted in the apex court.
“Many states like Punjab and Haryana want these trials to be allowed. We are committed to comply with the best practices followed. Some of the suggestions of the CoS include selection of specific sites for field trials and there should be sufficient conditions to monitor them. Crop-specific dedicated monitoring and protocol system should be drawn,” he said.
“Where my contribution comes is when Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told me that all decisions of the CoS did not reflect in the draft affidavit. Then both of us told the Secretaries to sit together and prepare the joint affidavit accordingly,” Moily added.
Such a joint affidavit will be completely opposed to the majority opinion of the court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) that has recommended banning field trials of GM crops across the country.
The minister said he firmly believed in “good processes, which do not mean personal prejudices or likes or dislikes… If something is in conformity with the system, I should do it without my pride and prejudices”.
Moily’s predecessor at the Environment ministry Jayanthi Natarajan had caused quite a storm in government circles by rejecting this common affidavit arrived on the issue by stakeholder ministries, the cabinet secretary and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Moily on the other hand met Pawar on the issue last month and agreed on the need to file a joint affidavit. He is also learnt to have cleared the deck for the Genetics Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) — the regulatory body for GM crops — to resume meeting again after a year-long break.
The GEAC last met in March 2013 when it cleared a series of field trials but these were all held up after Natarajan refused to approve the minutes of the meeting and wrote to the Prime Minister saying field trials were not feasible as the issue was pending in the Supreme Court.