Mr Jairam Ramesh
The former federal environment minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, who now heads the rural development ministry was a villain to the bioagri industry. For he used his ministerial powers and announced a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified brinjal in February 2010, despite the product getting the regulatory approval.
But with General Elections fast approaching in April-May 2014, the minister seems to be turning a new leaf related to biotech. In a widely reported talk in mid-January, Mr Ramesh admitted that the Manmohan Singh government had disappointed the country by failing to set up a modern biotech regulatory agency as envisaged by the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill now awaiting Parliamentary approval for nearly three years.
"It was unfortunate that in the four years since I passed the moratorium order on Bt brinjal, the government, which I am part of, has not been able to fulfil these milestones. One was to put an independent regulator in place, empower them and pass a law. We do not have it (BRAI) in place," Mr Ramesh said at a recent industry event in Delhi.
"We need GM crops. We need different forms of GM crops not only the Bt route," he said adding he had issued the moratorium only for a limited period till the pre-conditions for its safe cultivation is met.
BioSpectrum learns that the change of mind within the government has come due to the strong support to the cause of biotech voiced by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recently. It is reliably learnt that Dr Singh has been vocal about science getting priority in these matters over unchecked activism.