No moratorium on field trials of GM crops, says government

There is no proposal to enforce a moratorium on all open field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops, the environment ministry said today.

The ministry said all field trials are subject to stringent norms such as maintaining a crop specific isolation distance from the periphery of the experimental site to other sexually compatible fields as prescribed under the Indian Minimum Seed Certification Standards.

Also, there are prescribed biological barriers by planting border rows all around the experimental plot.  Field trials are allowed only after submission of validated event specific test protocol of 0.01 per cent accuracy.

Post harvest, it is stipulated that adequate precautions are taken to minimise contamination due to gene flow, if any.

"The mandate of the ministry under 'Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989' of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, is to address only biosafety issues before according approval for environmental release. This Ministry has no role in deciding commercial cultivation of agricultural seeds, genetically modified or otherwise in any state," the release said.

The government is following a policy of case-by-case assessment of genetically modified crops and extensive evaluation and regulatory approval process takes place before any GM plant is approved for commercial cultivation, the release noted.