Viewpoint: India’s ‘retreat’ from GM crops in the face of dogmatic opposition will harm its farmers

In deciding to consider proposals for GM crop field trials only upon the recommendation of state governments, [the Indian government] has signaled a retreat in another arena of farm reforms. Last year, central regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) allowed biosafety field trials of two new transgenic Bt Brinjal varieties in eight states. RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh asked the [federal government] and these states to deny no-objection certificates for the field trials. GEAC’s decision to initiate trials, a compulsory prelude to commercial release, was a completely scientific decision based on long-term ICAR studies.

Unfortunately the dogmatic opposition to transgenic crops rejects such findings, nor do they appreciate that the two Bt Brinjal varieties were developed indigenously. Field trials will help governments, scientists, seed companies and farmers transparently assess the claims of transgenic crops repelling pests and boosting productivity.

Related article:  Bowing to political pressure, India scraps plans to trial GM, insect-resistant, Bt eggplant
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When circumstances force India to adopt GM crops in future, foreign biotech companies that have powered ahead during these two decades of domestic confusion will reap the advantages. Dangerous trends like farmers growing unapproved transgenic varieties of cotton and brinjal were reported amid stalling of trials.

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