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APPROVAL: Field trials permitted for Bt eggplants in India




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  FIELD TRIALS PERMITTED FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

SOURCE: The Hindu, India

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.hindu.com/2007/08/19/stories/2007081955351200.htm

DATE:   19.08.2007

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FIELD TRIALS PERMITTED FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS

To be conducted under the supervision of scientists

- Nod for preliminary trial of transgenic cotton, okra, rice and tomato

- Trial to include flavour analysis of the product

NEW DELHI: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has permitted large-scale field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops in the country but with certain restrictions.

The varieties have been developed by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and Mahyco.

The field trials of several varieties of Bt brinjal — the first food crop in the country — will be carried out in research farms at specified locations and not in the private fields.

The Multi Location Field Trials (MLFT) for four varieties of transgenic Bt brinjal — Co2-Bt, MDU1-Bt, KKM-Bt and PLR1-Bt — containing cry1Ac gene will be carried out at Horticulture and Research Institutes at Coimbatore, Periyakulam, Madurai, and Killikulam and Vegetable Research Station at Palur between June and September 2007 and January and April 2008 to evaluate their agronomic performance and efficacy in controlling fruit and shoot borer.

Developed by TNAU, the trials will be conducted under the supervision of University scientists. The field trials of varieties of Bt brinjal developed by Mahyco will be conducted at 11 locations in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research institutional farms under the supervision of the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR) at Varanasi.

The GEAC also permitted preliminary trials of transgenic cotton, Bt okra, Bt rice and Bt tomato.

The field trials of Bt brinjal developed by Mahyco will be carried out under the direct supervision of the Director IIVR and would have to comply with the Supreme Court directions stating that all trials should have a lead scientist’s name who would be responsible for all aspects of the trial including regulatory requirements, an isolation of 200 metres would be maintained during field trials and before bringing the GM material from the green house for conduct of open field trial, the company should confirm that there has been no contamination. The two year trial will also include a flavour analysis of the product as it is a food crop.

 

Economic study

A detailed socio economic study as prescribed by a three-member sub-committee will also be conducted.

Results from all studies would be reviewed along with the socio-economic study to decide on the introduction of Bt brinjal in India.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  INDIA ALLOWS FIRST LARGE TRIALS OF GM FOOD CROP

SOURCE: Reuters

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUKDEL5896320070816

DATE:   16.08.2007

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INDIA ALLOWS FIRST LARGE TRIALS OF GM FOOD CROP

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has approved the first large-scale field trials of a genetically modified food crop, a senior government official said on Thursday.

A new hybrid variety of the popular brinjal vegetable, which promises better yields with less intensive use of pesticide, will be tested in the latest GM trials to be held in the country.

”We have allowed large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal,” an official at the environment ministry, who could not be named, told Reuters.

India has allowed commercial cultivation of genetically modified cotton since 2002.

That decision led to large-scale protests by voluntary organizations, which said bacillus thuringiensis or Bt cotton seeds were a health hazard and harmful for the environment.

But trade experts say the new technology has pushed up production and productivity.

”There has been less opposition to genetically modified seeds now as farmers have experienced higher yield due to Bt cotton cultivation,” Sharad Joshi, a farmers’ leader and lawmaker, said.

India, the world’s second-largest cotton producer after China, overtook the United States with estimated output of 28 million bales (1 bale=170 kg) in the year to September 2007.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  ACTIVISTS CRY FOUL TRIALS OF BT BRINJAL

SOURCE: The Economic Times, India

AUTHOR: Tamil News Network, India

URL:    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Commodities/Activists_cry_foul_trials_of_Bt_brinjal/articleshow/2296680.cms

DATE:   21.08.2007

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ACTIVISTS CRY FOUL TRIALS OF BT BRINJAL

NEW DELHI: In allowing large-scale trials of Bt Brinjal, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry may have violated its own June 2007 rule that states that such trials will be allowed only after complete biosafety data has been generated. ”It is unfortunate that the GEAC has allowed large-scale trials of Bt Brinjal without biosafety having been cleared and without making the data public. In the process, it is breaking its own rules which were reiterated in its June 2007 meeting,”? said Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) executive director G V Ramanjaneyulu.

”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 CSA’s Kavitha Kuruganti.

In fact, numerous questions on biosafety have been raised on Bt Brinjal, particularly on the protocol of tests conducted or commissioned by Mahyco, data analysis and conclusions drawn. 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, assert environment and farm activist groups. This was evident from the perusal of GEAC minutes and the fact that no findings have been made public thus far, said CSA.

”The GEAC is shorting the circuits of 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,” Mr Ramanjaneyulu added.

Large-scale trials have reportedly been allowed in 13 different locations, to be led and coordinated by the Indian Vegetable Research Institute in Varanasi and all trials would, it is understood, take place inside the NARS campuses (not in farmers’ fields).

Meanwhile, an independent expert committee on Bt Brinjal set up by CSA and Thanal, which went through the all India coordinated research project on vegetable cultivation report for 2005-06 on Bt Brinjal trials, has noted that little additional information can be expected to be garnered from the ICAR-supervised agronomic trials for Bt Brinjal. ”It is therefore not clear what else will the agronomic trials will prove,” said Ms Kuruganti.



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:  FIELD TRIALS OF GM CROPS TRIGGER ROW

SOURCE: The Statesman, India

AUTHOR: Anindita Chowdhury

URL:    http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?date=2007-07-31&usrsess=1&clid=1&id=191919

DATE:   30.07.2007

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FIELD TRIALS OF GM CROPS TRIGGER ROW

KOLKATA, July 30: Field trials of genetically modified crops in the state have triggered off a war of letters between some members of the state agriculture commission and the department of biotechnology under the Union science and technology ministry.

The department of biotechnology under GOI has brushed aside allegations of illegal field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in North 24 Parganas and a lax regulatory system, as raised by some members of the state agriculture commission. The commission itself, however, plans to discuss the issue of GM contamination and human hazards, in its coming meetings.

Citing reports by the monitoring authority, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (BCKV) Prof. TK Bose, a member of the commission, had alleged that Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds company (Mayco) has conducted illegal field trials on Bt brinjal, Bt tomato without following bio safety measures and monitoring as suggested by DBT although they were given permission only for trials on Bt rice and Bt okra (ladies finger). He had demanded legal action against the company.

BCKV had informed DBT that biosafety protocols were not adhered to during the trials. Moreover, the monitoring visit was timed when the trials were at a finishing stage and the university was not consulted about site selection, trial details and methodology followed .

However, Dr KK Tripathi, advisor, DBT has dismissed these allegations of conducting illegal trials without informing regulatory authority as being ”unfounded” since both the chief secretary and commissioner of agriculture of the state were informed about the trials. While admitting that the company did not seek permission for conducting field trials for GM tomato or brinjal crop he explained that the presence of such crops was probably due to the practice of ”seed companies to keep testing their different hybrids (non GM) in different locations for agronomic performance and evaluation. This is reiterated because no company can do any GM trial without adhering to the conditions specified in the permit letter and cannot abandon it the way indicated in your letter.”

He has also argued that the regulatory system put in place by the Government of India has been functioning effectively in regulating the DNA research and GM product commercialisation in the country in respect to biosafety as well as various risk benefit analysis and socio-economic issues.

Prof. Bose has countered Dr Tripathi’s arguments in a recent letter saying that the report of BCKV has been ignored. He has also pointed out that in small holdings in states like West Bengal it would be impossible to protect non GM variety from contamination with pollens of GM hybrids or keep an isolation of 200 metres.

When contacted, Prof. RN Basu, chairman of the commission, said it would give its own recommendations on the use of GM seeds in the state.



                                  PART 5

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  BT BRINJAL IS ALMOST ON YOUR TABLE, TESTS CLEARED FOR TOMATOES, BHINDI

SOURCE: The Indian Express, India

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.indianexpress.com/story/211057.html

DATE:   17.08.2007

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BT BRINJAL IS ALMOST ON YOUR TABLE, TESTS CLEARED FOR TOMATOES, BHINDI

NEW DELHI, AUGUST 17: One year after it was first taken up for consideration, India’s first genetically modified food crop is one step away from being sold commercially. In a recent meeting, the apex regulatory body, cleared Bt brinjal (genetically modified brinjal) developed by Mahyco, for large-scale trials.

It also cleared proposals for pollen flow/biosafety studies for other food crops — bhindi (okra), rice and tomatoes.

After a protracted case in the Supreme Court, the regulatory body has been extra cautious and has introduced a host of safeguards to be followed while testing.

The Bt brinjal has the same Cry1Ac gene from Bacillus thuringiensis as cotton. The gene makes the plant tolerant to the fruit and shoot borers, pests which attack it throughout its life cycle. The yield-loss due to fruit and shoot borers in India alone is estimated to be about $221 million (Rs 900 crores).

The first large-scale trials would be done under the supervision of director, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research at Varanasi. This is a major departure from other large-scale trials done on cotton in the past. The Genetic Engineering approval Committee (GEAC), the regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has forbidden any company from conducting trials in farmers’ fields as per the recent Supreme Court order.

Meanwhile, public sector research on Bt brinjal is close on the heels of Mahyco’s hybrid. They were accorded clearance for Multi Location Field Trials (MLFT), a step before the Mahyco hybrid large scale trials. These trials would be conducted at five agriculture research institutes in South India.

Brinjal has two seasons — the trials are expected to be done during June-September this year and January-April next year monitored by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TANU ), Coimbatore. The trials will evaluate their agronomic performances as well as their efficacy in controlling fruit and shoot borer, the most common pest for brinjal. The trials are also meant to see if they impact beneficial insects.

The Mahyco brinjal hybrid has been locked in a long battle between activists and the government. After the biosafety data was put on the Ministry website, an expert committee was set up to evaluate comments from various stakeholders on the data and suggest further studies required to ascertain its safety.

The committee concluded that the biosafety data generated by the applicant is in order. ”However, Bt brinjal being the first GM crop to be released in India and the first to be released globally, the committee was of the opinion that a cautious step by step approach needs to be taken.”

The committee said that while the data showed that the Bt version was safe, more studies specially with respect to toxicity need to be done. ”Short term data generated on environment safety and socio economic aspects need to be further substantiated” said the committee. It said its benefits are to be compared to existing technologies specially with respect to methods of pest management.

GEAC, accepting the committee’s recommendations has decided that this hybrid needs to be tested at 11 locations and under the strict supervision of IIVR, Varanasi. In none of these trials, it would be taken to open farmers fields. New Studies that would be stipulated soon would be conducted in addition to the ones already required.

A beginning has been as far as the other foodcrops are concerned. They are still two steps away from multi-location research trials. Bt okra has been permitted for testing in confined field conditions in Rabi 2007 for conduct biosafety studies. Transgenic rice and Bt tomato trials have also been allowed under confined field conditions. These would be done in company’s own research farms and an isolation distance of 200 m would be maintained. A validated event specific test protocol would be specified. The name of the lead scientists responsible for the trails would be given in advance.

Though a slew of studies would be generated on the Mahyco hybrid before it is cleared, Indian seems to be closer to clearing its first transgenic crop than ever before.


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