India: G-E Approval Committee breaks own rules in approving large scale Bt Brinjal trials Print E-mail

 

PRESS RELEASE Friday August 17 2007

"GEAC breaking its own rules by allowing large scale trials of Bt Brinjal"

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Hyderabad, August 16th, 2007: Reacting to the news that Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had allowed large scale trials of Bt Brinjal, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture accused GEAC of breaking its own rules which state that large scale trials will not be allowed unless the complete biosafety data has been generated. Bt Brinjal clearly does not fall in this category as there have been numerous questions on biosafety of Bt Brinjal, the protocols of tests conducted or commissioned by Mahyco, the data analysis and conclusions drawn. In fact, some of the prescribed tests like foliar feeding studies (which have been mandated after reports of animal mortality and morbidity after open grazing on Bt Cotton fields) have not been completed on Bt Brinjal, as evident from the perusal of GEAC minutes and the fact that no findings have been made public.

Reacting to GEAC's move, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, "Without biosafety having been cleared and without making the data public, it is unfortunate that the GEAC has allowed large scale trials of Bt Brinjal; in the process, it is breaking its own rules which were reiterated in its June 2007 meeting. The GEAC is short-circuiting the processes and aiding a company which had not even bothered to follow the conditions imposed on it by the regulators in the previous permissions. Recent information shared by the GEAC under the Right To Information Act showed once again that Mahyco has repeatedly violated the conditional permissions given for trials, including by taking up trials in locations where they were not permitted".

It is reported that these large scale trials have been allowed in 13 different locations, to be led and coordinated by the Indian Vegetable Research Institute in Varanasi and that all trials would take place inside NARS campuses (not in farmers' fields).

"It is inappropriate for GEAC to have called for feedback from the public on the so-called biosafety data put up by Mahyco and not to share the 'expert committee's' findings in a similar manner on its website, before taking a decision on this matter", said Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that the Independent Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal set up by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Thanal, which went through the AICRP (All India Coordinated Research Project) on Vegetable Cultivation report for 2005-06 on Bt Brinjal trials, noted that from the ICAR-supervised trials, there is not much promise for Bt Brinjal.  "It is therefore not clear what else will the agronomic trials are expected to prove", said Kavitha.

For more information, contact:
1. Kavitha Kuruganti, +91-9393001550
2. G V Ramanjaneyulu, +91-9391359702
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Kavitha Kuruganti
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka
Secunderabad 500 017
www.csa-india.org; www.indiagminfo.org

Phone: +91-9393001550
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  Saturday August 18 2007

GEAC for SC order modification

ASHOK B SHARMA

New Delhi, Aug 17 The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), after approving field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops for the first time, has decided to file an application for modification of the Supreme Court order of May 8, 2007.

The Supreme Court in May 8, this year had stipulated that an isolation distance of 200 metre should be maintained during GM crops’ field trials. Prior to the field trials, the concerned company or the institution submit a validated event specific test protocol to detect at least 0.01% genetic contamination and confirm that there has been no contamination.

According to minutes of the 79th GEAC which was made available on Friday, implications of the Supreme Court order was discussed in the meeting and the members authorised the chairman, BS Parsheera to file an application urging the apex court to modify its order.

Deliberating on reports submitted by the GEAC sub-panel headed by the CICR director, BM Khadi and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), members were of the view that a uniform isolation distance is not tenable as the nature of the pollen flow and level of contamination depends on the biology of the crop and the host environment in which it is being cultivated.

The GEAC noted that Indian Minimum Seed Certification Standards’ Manual has prescribed different isolation distance for different crops depending upon its nature of pollination and the pollinating agents GEAC also resolved that when adequate biosafety measures are to be ensured, the need for a validated protocol to detect at least 0.01% genetic contamination may be dispensed with.

However, while approving large scale field trials of four Bt Brinjal (eggplant) at five locations, the GEAC directed the developers to comply with the Supreme Court order, until iit is favourably modified. As per Khadi panel's recommendations GEAC approved isolation distance of 300 metre for Bt brinjal. It also approved strip trials of Bt rice and contained field trials of ICRISAT's transgenic groundnut and number of field trials for Bt cotton. GEAC allowed pollen flow and biosafety studies to be conducted for Bt brinjal, Bt rice, Bt okra, Bt tomato and Bt cotton.