GENET archive


REGULATION / APPROVAL: Indian ban on trials of GM crops to continue

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Ban on trials of GM crops to continue
SOURCE: The Times of India, India
AUTHOR: Nitin Sethi
DATE:   12.05.2007

Ban on trials of GM crops to continue

NEW DELHI: The GM industry has nothing to cheer about. SC has not
vacated its order on fresh field trials of genetically modified crops.

The apex court has only allowed ongoing and earlier approved trials to
continue, while not vacating the ban that it had imposed in an interim
order of September 22, 2006, banning any fresh field trials of GM crops.

The court, in its order, said, "The Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) shall take sufficient precautions to see that these
(ongoing and already approved) trials are not causing any contamination
to the cultivation in the neighbouring fields."

In order to pin down responsibility in case of any mishap, the court
said: "In all trials that are being conducted, the name of the scientist
and other details of who will be responsible for all aspects of the
trials should be reported to GEAC and there should be regular
supervision by them."

The court, in fact, tightening the leash on the government, has also
ordered that the government release data on any tests of toxicity and
allergenicity that may have been conducted on the four species of Bt
Cotton already approved by the government. The precedent setting order
has elated the green groups as they have been constantly asking for such
data to be put out in the public domain.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the petitioners in the case, Prashant Bhushan,
has sent a legal notice to the environment ministry for the
"misinterpretation" of the SC order by minister of state for environment
and forests, Namo Narain Meena.

In a speech, the MoS was quoted as saying, "The stay on Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee has been vacated today (May 9) during
judicial hearing."

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Supreme Court allows use of four Bt. cotton species
SOURCE: The Hindu, India
DATE:   12.05.2007

Supreme Court allows use of four Bt. cotton species

Verify whether it causes toxicity
- Test data should be made available to court
- Trials to be supervised by scientists

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) to permit commercial use of four species of Bt. cotton
varieties subject to certain conditions. The varieties are Bt. cotton
Cry 1 Ac MON 531, Cry 1 Ac & Cry 2 Ab MON, GFM Cry 1A gene and Cry 1AC
gene (Event 1).

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices Tarun
Chatterjee and D.K. Jain passed this order on an application filed by
the Centre seeking to vacate the interim stay on further approvals.

No further modification

The Bench said the GEAC, while considering the grant of approvals,
"should satisfy itself that these events are not further genetically
modified so that no further species is created by such modification."

It should also verify whether these species by commercial use cause
toxicity or allergenicity to any of the users in organic tests conducted
with the varieties of Bt cotton. If any such test was conducted, the
data should be made available to the court.

The Centre said that in view of the September 22, 2006 stay order, "the
GEAC is not in a position to grant approval for various applications
which are pending with the authority. All these applications are for
conducting field trials on various varieties of plants. The GEAC, during
May 2, 2006- September 22, 2006 granted approvals for 24 items in
respect of Bt cotton, Bt cauliflower, Bt brinjal, Bt rice, transgenic
rice, Bt castor, groundnut, transgenic tomato, potato and other items.
The field trials are going on in respect of these items and the court in
the said order also noticed that 91 field tests have been going on."

Field trials

Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the petitioner, Aruna Rodrigues, said
precautions were not being taken in these field trials and serious
pollen contamination of similar species on neighbouring fields was likely.

200-metre distance

Taking note of this submission, the Bench said the GEAC should take
precautions to see that these trials did not contaminate cultivation on
neighbouring fields. For field trials, there should be at least a 200-
metre distance from the neighbouring field having the same type of

In all trials, the name of the scientist and other details of who would
be responsible for the trials should be reported to the GEAC, and there
should be regular supervision by them.

Prior to bringing the GM material out of the greenhouse for open field
trials, "the approved institution should submit a validated event
specific test protocol at an LOD of at least 0.01% to detect and confirm
that there has been no contamination," the Bench said.

The matter has been adjourned to August.

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Govt withholds GM food info
AUTHOR: Prachi Bhuchar
DATE:   13.05.2007

Govt withholds GM food info

Earlier this week the Supreme Court gave the go ahead to the Centre to
conduct field trials of some Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

The court also directed the Centre to give details about the toxicity
levels of these crops.

But last month, in response to a Right to Information application, the
government had refused to share these details.

We should know what we eat. That was the premise on which an
environmental group filed a petition under the Right to Information Act
last month, asking for specific data on field trials of genetically
modified food crops, including their toxicity and allergicity levels.

The Information Commission directed the department of biotechnology to
provide this information within 10 days but when the response from the
government came it was far from satisfactory.

"Multi-location field trials are okay but bio-safety information cannot
be disclosed," the government said in a reply. The reason had more to do
with addressing commercial interests than safeguarding public health.

Surprisingly, though it has approved their multi-location field trials,
the government said the data on rice, bhindi and mustard was yet to be
evaluated. This answer, experts say, is less convincing and more confusing.

"It is ridiculous that the government does not want to provide
information on something that affects our health. We asked them a
straightforward question and they did not want to give an answer," said
Geneticist Dr Suman Sahai.

But the health ministry feels stricter norms should be in place before
GM foods can be consumed.

"I have expressed my concern to the ministry of environment and the
science and tech ministry as well. Before they give a go ahead for field
trials they have to ensure there is more information available,
otherwise there is a serious health concern," said Union Health Minister
Dr Anbumani Ramadoss.

Absence of proper mechanism

Some of the other concerns are that is no mechanism in place for GM food
labeling and consumers are in dark about what they are eating.

Even the farmers are clueless about bio-safety hazards during field
trials and people who regulate field trials are also on committees that
give approval to firms to enter India.

In most countries field trials of GM crops have been on the decline
since 2003. Also, there's evidence that genetic engineering have
dangerous consequences.

In India, both farmers and scientists have always stopped short of
greeting trials of GM food crops.

While farmers say it would damage other crops, scientists feel its still
is a potential health and environmental hazard.

"Nowhere in the world has GM foods led to food security. Once we
introduce GM organisms into the environment there is no control. There
is crossing over onto other organisms. Companies have been accused of
taking bribes in other countries. How can the government deal with such
companies," said Dr Pushpa Bhargava, Scientist.

But biotechnologists at the genetic engineering approval committee,
which gives these trials the go-ahead, say safety norms have never been

Does India need GM food at all? Experts say with Asia being the next big
market for biotech firms, it is here that the future of these foods will
be decided, especially since it is a growing nation where food security
remains a constant concern.

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  SC ruling on GMOs restarts seed supply
SOURCE:, India
AUTHOR: Jacob P. Koshy
DATE:   12.05.2007

SC ruling on GMOs restarts seed supply

Seed farmers, like contract farmers, cultivate crops for the company to
produce desired kinds of seeds

The Supreme Court's recent order allowing the Genetic Engineering
Approval Committee (GEAC) to consider granting approvals to more than 24
items, including genetically-modified cotton and rice, couldn't have
come soon enough for Vibha Agrotech Ltd.

The Hyderabad-based hybrid-seed company's chief managing director, P.
Vidyasagar, says he can now go back to selling hybrid seeds developed by
his company to delivery agents, who, in turn, provide them to farmers.

Vibha Agrotech is one of the 35 companies that had submitted
applications to GEAC, the apex body that approves genetically-modified
organisms (GMOs), seeking permission to market hybrids of Bt-cotton--the
only GM seed that can be marketed in India.

"We have had to go back on our packing and delivering commitments,
signed before the stay order. Moreover, I still had to continue paying
my 'seed' farmers," he said.

Seed farmers, like contract farmers, cultivate crops for the company to
produce desired kinds of seeds.

"In the last eight months, I've lost over Rs15 crore," Vidyasagar
claimed. That includes licensing fees that Vibha pays seed-technology

GEAC's work has been halted since 22 September. The committee met on
Friday to discuss approving varieties of cotton for North and Central
India. The sowing season is expected to begin in the South around the
first week of June.

"For every month approvals are delayed, the industry suffers losses
worth Rs50 crore," Vidyasagar said.

R.K. Sinha, a spokesperson for the National Seed Association of India,
the country's largest seed-industry consortium, said while he couldn't
comment on the exact loss to the industry from the delays, "Vidyasagar
knows the ground and financial realities well".

Hema Chawda, owner of VNR Seeds Pvt. Ltd, also pegged her current losses
at around Rs10 crore.

-------------------- archived at --------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer