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

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Modi and Modified Crops

India must stay with the precautionary principle with regard to genetically-modified crops.

By clearing the way for field trials of genetically-modified (GM) food crops, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry has inadvertently laid a political challenge before the Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi. Will it adhere to its stated objection to GM crops mentioned in its election manifesto, or will it take another of its, by now fabled, “U-turns” and go down the path of its avowed neo-liberal economic policies where the interests of investors, particularly from overseas, take precedence over other concerns?

It is curious that the GEAC has chosen to clear the way for some 15 GM food and other crops to undergo controlled field trials. These include rice, mustard, chickpea, cotton and brinjal. The introduction of GM mustard was strongly opposed several years back and the field trials were cancelled. Bt brinjal was also cleared for trials but withdrawn in the face of objections from the Ministry of Environment and Forests based on the views of farmers at a series of public hearings around India. Despite this, and the fact that the Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments against field trials of GM crops in the absence of adequate regulatory systems, the GEAC has chosen to go ahead. In fact, the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up by the Supreme Court to look into this issue has recommended a moratorium on field trials because it believes the regulatory system is inadequate.

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