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POLICY: Indian Government refuses to divulge details of GM fieldtrials

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Centre refuses to divulge details of GM field trials
SOURCE: The Times of India, India
AUTHOR: Nitin Sethi
DATE:   23.04.2007

Centre refuses to divulge details of GM field trials

NEW DELHI: In an era of transparency, the government has been less than
candid on issues of public health. It has, despite an SC order, avoided
explicitly mentioning the "implications and biological results" of field
trials of genetically modified crops. In fact, it has questioned the
competence of the court to decide matters of 'science and technology'.

The ministry of environment, in its affidavit filed as a reply to the SC
order, has divulged the complete list of 144 applications it has
approved for testing since 2006, including ones of crops meant for human
consumption like okra, rice, cauliflower, groundnut, tomato and potato.

The admission that trials for food crops were cleared and the
government, despite the court order, did not explain the impacts of such
trials has the green brigade up in arms.

Ironically, the government, instead of explaining the possible public
health and environmental impact of such trials, has merely detailed the
process it is following and the trials it is using for testing these
food crops the very process under review in the court.

"When the court asked for implications and biological results of the
tests of GM crops, the government could have explained the possible
biological and environmental impacts of such trials and their results
and not just a list of what is being tested and how," said Aruna
Rodriguez, one of the petitioners.

As a reaction, the petitioners, in a new application, have demanded that
the government not only divulge the complete details of all locations,
trials and genetic sequences of the testing of these 144 crops but also
conduct comprehensive nationwide tests for contamination of fields and
food because of these trials.

The court had on February 15 ordered that the government put on record
"what would be the implications and the biological results" of the
testing permitted in 91 varieties by the Genetic Engineering Application
Committee (GEAC).

It was only as a reaction to the court order that in its 75th meeting,
the GEAC on March 14 noted that it has asked for complete data on such trials.

The minutes of the meeting stated that "in respect of... other new GM
crops under various stages of field trials, the committee requested
department of biotechnology to make available the requisite information
related to pollen flow studies and multi-location testing data
expeditiously to the member secretary, GEAC", so that it can compile
them for a reply to SC.

Defending its processes, the ministry states in the affidavit, "The
appropriate committees of the Union of India may be permitted to
function as per the prescribed procedure."

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