ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fielding Trials for Genetic Engineering

The manner in which the United Progressive Alliance government approved field trials of genetically engineered crops in the last few weeks of its term in office speaks poorly of its regard for the decision-making process.

On 27 February 2014 the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) issued a press release welcoming the approval of the March 2013 decisions of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) (ABLE-AG 2014). The press release thanked the Union Minister of Environment and Forests at the time, Veerappa Moily, for permitting the open field trials of over 200 varieties of rice, wheat, maize, castor and cotton that had undergone genetic modification (GM) in laboratories. For India these are crucial food and cash crops which both small and large farmers depend on.

Moily’s predecessor, Jayanthi Natarajan had held off from signing the minutes for almost a year though the GEAC’s March 2013 meeting had recommended field trials by big biotechnology companies like Bayer Bioscience, Mahyco and BASF India. While her refusal to sign had been translated by ABLE-AG as a “setback to scientists and the biotech industry”, Natarajan’s letter to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) dated 9 July 2013 stated clearly that she could not allow these permissions as the matter was sub judice in the Supreme Court of India.1

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