The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to assess the safety of GM crops has in its interim report recommended a ten-year moratorium on field trials of BT transgenics in all edible food crops meant for human consumption.
The moratorium which has been in place following a decision take by the then Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has now been seconded by this panel which was set up in May this year in a petition by Aruna Rodrigues versus Union of India.
Giving reasons for the unanimous recommendation of the five member committee , the report cites the precautionary principle in the matter of open field trials of GMOs, Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and in the Rio Declaration of 1992 of which India is a signatory.
But the other reasons it said included the time required to identify specific sites for conducting such trials and the time needed for devising and putting in place a sufficient mechanism for monitoring the trials. It has advised designation and certification of specific sites for conducting open free trials whenever they are performed.
The committee further said that ten years were needed to ensure fulfillment of another of its recommendation which is to ensure that a panel of scientists qualified in evaluation of bio safety data is engaged to analyse safety data.
It said that there was conflict of interest in regulatory bodies and considerable time was needed to get rid of this. It also asked for time so that regulations include requirement for preliminary bio safety tests including toxicity in small animals .
It has also called for a ban on outsourcing and sub contracting of field trials.The TEC’s specific mandate was to advise whether GM trials should be banned or not and if they were to be allowed what precautions were to be taken.
The report echoes the recommendations made recently by a parliamentary standing committee on GM crops.
The order is to be now examined by the Supreme Court on October 29.
Civil society hailed the recommendations for a ten year ban on GM open trials. Suman Sahai GM expert and scientist said that she hoped the report would be accepted. The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomed the interim report and said it would wait for the Supreme Court’s hearing in the matter.
”While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GM proponents as ‘political’, or ‘emotional’, or ‘non-scientific’ inquiries and recommendations/decisions, it is worth noting that the TEC consists only of scientists, including scientists from the government as its representatives. The members of the TEC included PS Chauhan, PC Keshavan, Prof PS Ramakrishnan, Dr Imran Siddiqi and B Shivakumar.
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