Biotech companies line up over 100 GM crops for field trials in India

Biotech companies, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Overseas Corporation, Bayer and Dow AgroSciences have lined up over 100 gene modified (GM) crops for field trials in India, for application in both kharif and rabi (winter) planting.

These companies, better known as seed companies, are awaiting approval by state governments for a number of seeds, including maize, cotton, and rice, before they can start field trials.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the central government had, in June, cleared their applications and had since directed the companies to first get a no objection certificate (NOC) from respective state governments before they get a final approval and start proceeding with field trials.

While state governments such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana have already granted approval for field trials of many of these seeds, states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar have deferred decision on GM crops.

The central government has not yet clearly spelt out its position on GM products and it continues to modify the eligibility criteria after biotech firms invest in research and field trials, says industry sources.

Reports quoting sources at the Association of Biotech Led Enterprises - Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG), meanwhile, said with several states taking time to give an NOC, over a 100 applications have piled up at state agriculture ministries.

It is mandatory for these seed companies to conduct field trials before they get final approvals to market their biotech agri-products locally.

ABLE-AG has sought a meeting with the new environment minister Jayanthi Natrajan, seeking clarity on some of the issues facing the industry.