Indian regulator okays wider field trials of 10 GM crops

Overriding the concerns expressed by environmentalists and farmers, the Indian government on Friday effectively permitted field trials of 10 varieties of genetically modified (GM) foods.

WheatAmong the GM crops cleared for "confined field trials" by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) - a statutory arm of the union environment ministry – are wheat, rice, maize and cotton.

The panel has allowed multi-national seed companies like Monsanto, Mahyco and BASF to go ahead with the trials, provided they get their applications revalidated. This is required as their validity period has lapsed due to various state governments blocking field trials. The GEAC had given its clearance in those 10 cases back in 2011 and 2012.

The committee, which met under the chairmanship of additional secretary in the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) Hem Pande however, did not take decision on any new cases in its meeting on Friday. It will meet again on 25 April to take a call on 70 fresh applications.

The revalidation of 10 cases on Friday would allow the seed companies which developed these varieties to go for "confined field trials" (called Phase-II trials) in a bigger area as compared to their tests in a very small tract of land during Phase-I.

The move comes barely a month after the ministry had given its nod to "confined field trials" of over 200 transgenic varieties of GM crops which got GEAC's clearance in its 117th meeting in March last year.