Biotech debate

India’s government ‘keen to reach GM consensus'

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm crops, Genetically modified organism, Agriculture

India’s government ‘keen to reach GM consensus'
India’s government is working hard to reach a consensus among scientists, politicians, farmers and consumers to reach a solution on the vexed issue of genetically modified crops, according to the country’s science and technology minister.

Addressing a meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (Birac) in New Delhi, Jaipal Reddy said that India could not afford to completely abandon the idea of growing GM crops, and the Centre was keen to move quickly, but also cautiously. 

"We are trying to build a consensus among various stakeholders like parliamentarians, NGOs, scientists and others. We will successfully arrive at a consensus very soon​," he told the gathering, adding that the issue must be addressed alongside the need to feed a growing population. 

On hold

The issue has been pretty much in stasis since 2010, when the then environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, imposed an indefinite moratorium on the introduction of commercial GM brinjal after a number of public hearings.

But the issue re-emerged after a parliamentary standing committee on agriculture issued a report last August that asked for the banning of GM food crops throughout the country. Much of the agriculture industry and some scientists, meanwhile, have been calling for the introduction of such crops for the sake of food security.

For the moratorium

However, concerned that the agriculture ministry is pushing for GM crops through the repeated use of the food security argument, more than 150 scientists wrote to the environment and forest minister, Jayanthi Natarajan in February to raise their concerns about GM crops.

Responding to Reddy’s comments, K Vijay Raghavan, chairman of Birac’s department of biotechnology, said Indian must devise a comprehensive regulatory system for GM food. 

"We are a large country with social needs and need to carry technology research​," he said.  "Concerns over GM crops are unfounded and these needs to be answered. The moratorium on GM crops is affecting the whole sector​."

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, South Asia

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