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BUSINESS & REGULATION: Minister of Environment re-writes rules of GM game in India



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   RAMESH RE-WRITES RULES OF GM GAME

SOURCE:  Hindustan Times, India

AUTHOR:  Zia Haq

URL:     http://www.hindustantimes.com/Ramesh-re-writes-rules-of-GM-game/Article1-719648.aspx

DATE:    10.07.2011

SUMMARY: "India?s bio-tech regulator has begun overhauling the way genetically modified crops are introduced, bringing in rules for the first time that require conflict-of-interest scenarios to be avoided and states? consent to be obtained. [...] Experts, however, argue that nearly all geneticists and transgenic experts are also the ones invariably involved in developing some GM plant or the other. ?[...] You cannot have people not related to the subject as regulators,? said Deepak Pental, University of Delhi?s professor of genetics, who is developing genetically modified mustard."

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RAMESH RE-WRITES RULES OF GM GAME

India?s bio-tech regulator has begun overhauling the way genetically modified crops are introduced, bringing in rules for the first time that require conflict-of-interest scenarios to be avoided and states? consent to be obtained. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh appears gritty about addressing concerns about the regulator ? the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) ? before the nation can confidently embrace technologies that change the way food is produced.

But ABLE-AG, the advocacy arm of the GM industry, says the time-consuming overhaul and lingering uncertainty are hurting projects worth millions of dollars.

?Avoiding conflict of interest and making the process democratic are paramount. States have a legitimate say in agriculture. These should have been done much before though,? Ramesh told HT.

New rules bar scientists, who have developed a specific transgenic plant, from evaluating its safety and efficacy as regulators. GEAC members will also have to opt out if a product from an industry to which they are consultants is being evaluated.

Experts, however, argue that nearly all geneticists and transgenic experts are also the ones invariably involved in developing some GM plant or the other. ?That?s how they become experts in the field. You cannot have people not related to the subject as regulators,? said Deepak Pental, University of Delhi?s professor of genetics, who is developing genetically modified mustard.

Making state governments? consent necessary to conduct field trials sums up Ramesh?s approach ? Decisions on GM crops and foods will have to be democratic, rather than scientific alone.

India?s federal structure puts agriculture in the states? domain.

Developers like Pantel argue that India could be better off adopting readymade protocols such as the one for OECD countries, a grouping of 34 advanced European economies.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GEAC MANDATES PRIOR STATE GOVT OKAY

SOURCE:  Business Standard, India

AUTHOR:  Sanjeeb Mukherjee & Sreelatha Menon

URL:     http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/geac-mandates-prior-state-govt-okay/441843/

DATE:    07.07.2011

SUMMARY: "With states wanting information on field trials of genetically modified crops, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee today directed applicants or companies wishing to conduct field trials for genetically modified crops to first produce a no-objection certificate from the states where they wished to do this. Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have earlier objected to field trials on GM crops being conducted in their state without their knowledge. [...] GM companies are unhappy. ?It will obviously delay the process for getting clearance for field trials,? said Paresh Verma, director, research, in Shriram Bioseed Ltd and a member of the National Seed Association of India."

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GEAC MANDATES PRIOR STATE GOVT OKAY

With states wanting information on field trials of genetically modified crops, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) today directed applicants or companies wishing to conduct field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops to first produce a no-objection certificate from the states where they wished to do this.

Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have earlier objected to field trials on GM crops being conducted in their state without their knowledge.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, for instance, had written to Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh for details on the field trials for GM maize being conducted in the state by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Madhya Pradesh recently sought details of the places where trials for GM crops were being conducted.

In the new rules, those wishing to conduct field trials for GM crops must first write to the GEAC about the place they have in mind. The Committee would then analyse the site on various parameters, such as its location near a sanctuary, water body, etc. After obtaining clearance, the applicants would have to get a no-objection certificate from the state in question as well, before any field trial.

GM companies are unhappy. ?It will obviously delay the process for getting clearance for field trials,? said Paresh Verma, director, research, in Shriram Bioseed Ltd and a member of the National Seed Association of India.