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APPROVAL / RISK ASSESSMENT: Indian GM field trials may beimpossible under Supreme Court's restrictions



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GM field trials may be impossible under Supreme Court's
        restrictions
SOURCE: GMWatch, UK
AUTHOR: Aruna Rodrigues, India
URL:    http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7852
DATE:   09.05.2007
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GM field trials may be impossible under Supreme Court's restrictions

NOTE: The following is from Aruna Rodrigues, the chief petitioner in the
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that's been before India's Supreme
Court. What she has to say is very different from the press reports
based on briefings by India's GM regulator - the GEAC.

EXTRACT: ...the restricitions that the GEAC are bound up in, place the
most severe conditions on them and open up a whole arena of action for
farmers and civil society groups. If the Union of India and its
Regulator, do not comply, they will face contempt of Court. It will be
virtully impossible for them to carry out field trials given our small
landholdings, with isolation distances of 200m.

GM WATCH COMMENT: This looks like very good news for farmers and
exporters given India's shambolic record on field trials and the kind of
economic impact from trials seen with the US rice industry.

---

Aruna Rodrigues: We still don't have the ORDER [from the Court] and may
not have it till Monday; in which case it is important to give out the
Order as we heard it along with the interpretation of that Order because
what is being carried across the Country in the press is a host of
contradictions and claims largely based on GEAC [India's GM regulator]
press briefings.

Only the GM case was heard by the Supreme Court on the 8 May before the
Chief Justice and two other Justices -- so it was a full day affair.
This is the ORDER (as we heard it)

(a) 4 Bt cotton varieties which have already been approved (includes
Bolgard II). The main point is that no NEW varieties of cotton will be
allowed.

(b) Field trials that were approved between May and Sept. 2006 may
continue. These pertain to a specifed list of vegetables and oilgrains.
NO OTHERS.

They are subject to 3 conditions:

(a) Isolation distances will be increased to 200m around the test field

(b) A lead scientist will be named who will assume full responsibity for
the field trial in all its aspects, most importantly for contamination

(c) The GEAC will specify a validated test protocol for contamination
with a LOD (level of detection) of 0.01%.

(d) Toxicity & Allergenicty data for all GMOs that are released.

IMPLICATIONS

1. While there has been a relaxation in principle of the ORDER of the
22nd December, in point of fact the restricitions that the GEAC are
bound up in, place the most severe conditions on them and open up a
whole arena of action for farmers and civil society groups. If the Union
of India and its Regulator, do not comply, they will face contempt of
Court. It will be virtully impossible for them to carry out field trials
given our small landholdings, with isolation distances of 200m.

2. It is also important to remember that the GEAC has still not complied
with the ORDER of the Court of the 15th Feb which asked the Regulator to
provide details about "what would be the biological implications of
these tests". Thus, they must provide toxicity and allergenicity data
under the still outstanding ORDER as well. Civil society will certainly
ask for this to be put in the public domain i.e. the GEAC website,
starting with Bt Brinjal and Bt cotton events.

3. The test protocol for contamination has to be announced before the
commencement of the release of the GMO, whether cotton or anything else.
This means genetic sequences of the GMOs must be disclosed. Civil
society has only one objective, NO contamination is acceptable. Nor will
we be bound by less than state-of-the-art testing facilities to test for
contamination at the lowest possible level -- traceability levels.
International labs will therefore be deployed by civil society for back
up tests to ascertain whether farmers' fields and food have been contaminated.


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                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  No more Luddites, please
SOURCE: The Economic Times, India
AUTHOR: Editorial
URL:    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/
No_more_Luddites_please_/articleshow/2030087.cms
DATE:   11.05.2007
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No more Luddites, please
Cotton output set to take off

The Supreme Court ruling granting permission to the Centre to conduct
field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds paves the way for
commercialisation of more than a dozen transgenic cotton hybrids.

And while it may not end the opposition to such crops completely, the
apex court's insistence on a number of safeguards should assuage the
fears of all but the most diehard opponents of GM crops.

The court has stipulated that a distance of 200 metres be kept between
GM and non-GM crop fields in order to minimise the risk of
contamination. It has also called for a strict protocol for testing
contamination with a designated scientist made responsible for ensuring
that testing standards are upheld.

Pending further trials, only four approved Bt cotton varieties are to be
commercially released at the moment. The court has also asked the
Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to submit detailed reports on
toxic and other allergic reactions to GM crops. The rationale is to
strike a balance between scientific progress and concerns about possible
harmful effects of what is still a relatively new science.

But while we understand the rationale, we would argue that the SC should
not concern itself any more with the operational details of the further
development of GM crops because this is solely the prerogative of the
executive and the legislature.

GM crops are produced from genetically modified organisms where the
genome has been altered through genetic engineering techniques. Though
they have been used for long in countries like the US and China, they
are still viewed with suspicion in large parts of the world, including Europe.

In India, opposition to GM crops has greatly delayed their introduction,
despite proven benefits in terms of greater pest resistance and higher
yield. Field trials have shown that farmers who grew the Bt cotton
variety, first introduced in 2002, obtained 25%-75% more cotton and also
needed to use less pesticide.

Thanks to increased acreage under Bt, cotton production touched 250 lakh
bales in the 2005 season, higher than the target of 220 lakh bales for
the tenth five year Plan under the Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC).
Rising production will pave the way for a rapid increase in exports of
textiles and readymade garments.


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