GM crops: Seed companies say NOC law to get GEAC nod is cumbersome – News Couple
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GM crops: Seed companies say NOC law to get GEAC nod is cumbersome


Rallis India sought permission for a Biosafety Research Level 1 (BRL 1) trial to evaluate resistance against Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera litura for cotton and Spodoptera frugiperda for maize. Industry sources said the trial was to assess tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate in both crops. (representative image)

Local seed technology developers have complained that the government has effectively halted field trials of genetically modified crops in the country with a new rule.

The new rule makes a No Objection Certificate (NoC) from the respective state government mandatory to contact the regulator, the Genetic Engineering Evaluation Committee (GEAC), for permission to conduct experiments.

“Earlier, GEAC would approve a trial of a genetically modified crop, and then companies would approach state governments to obtain NoC based on that approval for field trials. Now, the company may not have any concrete evidence to request permission for the first phase of field trials. He also drew attention to the Karnataka government’s recent decision to seek public comments on allowing field trials of genetically modified crops.

In July, Rallis India, a subsidiary of the Tata Group, applied for a NoC from the Karnataka government to conduct field trials confined to maize and cotton in one acre, each during 2021-22 and 2022-23 in association with the Dharwad and Raichur Agriculture Universities. But the state government’s High Commission on Genetically Modified Crops has decided to put it in the public domain for its views.

“The new rule is an unfortunate development, which will make life very difficult for the already beleaguered agricultural biotechnology industry,” said Ram Kaundinya, Director General of the Seed Industry Federation of India (FSII). He said that scientific evaluation of technologies should be conducted by scientists through scientific experiments and not through public opinion because the public has no idea about the technology.

“This will become a political process rather than a science-based process and will virtually put the efforts and investments of the entire agricultural biotechnology industry on hold. Farms will be hit hardest,” Kaundinya said.

Rallis India sought permission to pilot a Biosafety Research Level 1 (BRL 1) trial to assess resistance against Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera litura for cotton and Spodoptera frugiperda for maize. Industry sources said the trial was also aimed at evaluating the tolerance of the herbicide glyphosate in both crops.

“Obtaining a NOC number from states before the application is considered by GEAC to allow BRL1 and BRL 2 trials is a regressive and somewhat counter-productive step. RS Baroda, former Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) said:

Noting that field trials with the approval of the state government are totally unjustified, Baroda said there is a need to provide an enabling environment for scaling up innovations through scientific experiments rather than complicating the existing regulatory system.

According to Deepak Pental, a former vice president of University of Delhi who developed a genetically modified mustard that was not approved for commercial cultivation, the government should think of a better method than the NoC. Pental suggested notifying test sites at ICAR research farms and agricultural universities, which would be well-equipped to conduct confined field trials of genetically modified crops in a safe and secure environment.

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