Mr Narayanan Suresh is the Group Editor of BioSpectrum
The reported assurance of Environment Minister, Mr Prakash Javadekar, to anti-GM activitists who called on him to keep in abeyance the regulatory approval for the field trials of 15 crops, has predictably created a storm across the country.
The mainstream media has accused the Narendra Modi government of pandering to the whims of organizations like the Swadesi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) in preventing cultivation of new genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. Both these organizations are loose affiliates of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is the dominant constituent of the ruling NDA coalition.
But most of these die-hard opponents of the government decision, to put on hold the regulatory approval taken by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on July 18, 2014, are missing the point. The Modi government would have actually betrayed the trust of the people if it allowed introduction of new GM crops. For the BJP manifesto in 2014 had clearly stated that "GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation of their long-term impact on soil production and biological impact on consumers."
Obviously, the manifesto had taken inputs from various affiliated organizations and so the party could not have gone against its stated policy after assuming power. Of the 15 approvals for confined trials granted by GEAC, four are food crops -- mustard, brinjal, rice and chickpea. And the GEAC has also allowed the import of GM soybean oil by three MNCs -- Monsanto, Bayer BioScience and BASF.
A leading columnist Mr Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyer has argued in The Economic Times that the government should approve GM crops on the occasion of the 100th Birth Anniversary of Dr Norman Borlaug this year. Dr Borlaug supplied the hybrid seed technologies to India in 1960s that led to the Green Revolution.