Dysfunctional GEAC led to regulatory stalemate believes Mr Ram Kaundinya (above), chairman Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises- Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG)
Q: How do you look at the latest Intelligence Bureau (IB) report revelation that certain NGOs have been behind the stalling of GM technologies?
The joint statement by NGOs against GMO section in the IB report has levelled some preposterous allegations that the report is influenced by large corporations who are interested in taking over the Indian seed sector. This not only belittles the contributions made by the Indian seed and biotech industry towards agriculture, but also insults our premier intelligence agency like IB. The mere thought that the IB can be influenced by corporates; the NGOs have merely demonstrated their attitude of ‘attack is the best form of defence'. We are not surprised by such allegations levelled by the four NGOs. Denigrating our premier Institutions has been their hall mark all along. They insinuated highly credible institutions like the GEAC, DBT, Agriculture Ministry and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Prime Minister earlier as they were progressing the deployment of Genetic Modification (GM) technology in the country. Any farmer, leader or scientist who supported GM technology was labelled as an agent of multinationals. Such an attitude contributed to the fact that many scientists, bureaucrats, technocrats and policy makers did not dare to voice their opinions on this matter, lest they should be branded as agents of various MNCs that are present in the country.
Q:Has the moratorium on Bt crops really affected the industry growth? How do you assess the damage in terms of finances and reputation?
The moratorium on Bt brinjal has really affected the growth of agricultural biotechnology industry in the country. It was followed by the requirement to get NOC from each state government to conduct open field trials. Some of the States refused to give NOCs. The meetings of GEAC have been reduced to annual events for the last three years. All this has led to a complete stalemate in the regulatory process and policy environment became adverse to the industry growth. Almost 60 events in about 11 crops which were being progressed through the regulatory process have been brought to a standstill because of regulatory paralysis. More than 50% of these events were from public institutions. The private sector kept losing confidence and reduced their further investments while scientists of the public sector got demoralized. Questions were being asked by International technology providers whether India would ever take a positive stand on the technology deployment in critical areas that were very important for the food security of the country.
Over Rs 10,500 crore public and private sector investments are in jeopardy for the past five years due to NGO activism. Their activities like destruction of R&D Crop field trials, trespassing of field trials, filing case in the Supreme Court against government's approval for Crop field trials, , misleading public with incorrect information instead of scientific truths during sustained campaigns led to derailment of the deployment of vital Genetic Modification technology in Indian Agriculture. This has, deprived millions of Indian farmers the opportunity to enhance their economic and social lives. It is a pity that just when the country was about to take further steps in deploying biotechnology in more crops the unfortunate moratorium on Bt Brinjal was imposed in 2010, under pressure from the same NGOs.