No ban on field trials of GM crops, says environment minister

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GAEC) has allowed field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops, including brinjal, even as the government banned commercialisation of Bt brinjal.

The GEAC has allowed field trials of cotton, rice, okra, brinjal, potato, groundnut, tomato, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard and sorghum as well for generation of biosafety data, minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

GEAC is the apex body notified under the "Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989" of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The government, he said, imposed a moratorium on commercialisation of Bt brinjal following apprehensions raised by NGOs and some sections of the scientific and farming communities on the safety of Bt brinjal.

He said the government would take maximum precautions as Bt brinjal is the first GM food crop to be introduced in the country.

He said commercial cultivation of the genetically modified brinjal would be allowed only after independent scientific studies establish the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in the country.