Ramesh orders halt to Bt-maize field trials in Bihar

Union minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh has directed the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under his ministry to immediately cancel field trials for Bt-maize in Bihar.

Jairam's intervention followed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's demand that the environment minister instruct the GEAC to cancel Bt-maize field trials in the state forthwith.

The GEAC, which is under the ministry of environment and forests, had allowed US-based biotech giant Monsanto Company to conduct field trials of genetically modified maize in Bihar.

"I have instructed the chairman of the GEAC to immediately cancel field trials for Bt-maize in Bihar," Ramesh wrote in a letter to Nitish Kumar.

Ramesh, in his letter, has also instructed the GEAC to give state governments a month's time to agree or disagree with the field trials of genetically modified crops as recommended by the GEAC, particularly GM food crops. Copies of the letter were made available to the media today.

"I have asked the GEAC to immediately withdraw the orders. I have asked them to write to all the states asking if they recommend field trails of GM crops and they will be given a month's time to reply. No field trials will be allowed without written permission of states," Ramesh told reporters today.