Will the GEAC, MoEF act now?
The reconstitution of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had led many to believe that the regulatory body would be aggressively taking up the 50 applications for research field trials, pending over a year's time. However, the woes of agri-biotech industry seem to be far from over as there has been no decision yet taken due to absence of few members in the first meeting held on the March 22, 2013 (as per sources). Moreover, the subsequent meeting scheduled for the April was also cancelled without any clear reasons.
Therefore, pressed into a difficult situation owing to zero progress since the last 12 months, the the Association of Biotech Led Enterprises - Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG), has expressed apprehensions over the fate of R&D on biotechnology-enhanced seeds, which present potentially vital inputs to enabling food security of the country and farmer prosperity. The industry body that represents major agri-biotech coompanies, has now sought urgent action from the Minister of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, and the GEAC to permit research field trials of biotechnology-enhanced seeds in the Kharif season sowing underway for continued R&D efforts by private and public sector institutions.
Commenting on the issue, Mr Ram Kaundinya, chairman, ABLE-AG, stated, "It is time to yield to the potential and entrepreneurial spirit of our nations 130 million farmers, science in agriculture talent, and rich diverse natural resources for domestic food, feed, fibre self-sufficiency, farmer prosperity, and to increase India's contribution to helping meets the needs of people in other continents and countries like Africa and China. Farmers choosing biotechnology-enhanced seeds have harvested this potential for the nation in cotton. It is time to yield to the potential of farmers, and technology."
"Seed biotechnologies offer benefits for insect protection, weed management, yield enhancement, drought and flood tolerance, nutrition enhancement, healthier oils and more," added Mr Kaundinya who is also the CEO of UPL Advanta Seeds.
GEAC, as the apex body in charge of granting field trials permissions for biotechnology-enhanced seeds crops had not met even once between April 2012 and February 2013. This severely affected R&D on biotechnology-enhanced Seeds and has thrown the industry into a tizzy because of the uncertain policy environment due to inaction in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.