India

Field trials of genetically modified crops may cease in India after the country’s Supreme Court issued a recommendation for an “indefinite moratorium” on planting GMOs.

The recommendation came via a technical expert committee made up of scientists and agriculturists appointed by the Supreme Court, and after more than 150 scientists wrote to the country’s Environment and Forest Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, earlier this year over concerns about GMO crops. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture also asked the country to ban GMOs in a 2012 report.

In a report submitted to the court, the committee recommended ceasing commercialization “until sufficient in-depth studies to ascertain their long-term safety can in their opinion conclusively prove their safety,” reports Food Navigator.

“Based on the examination of safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered,” the report noted. “It would not be advisable to conduct more field trials.”

According to Food Navigator, “The expert committee also refused to give their approval to tolerant crops saying these would most likely ‘exert a highly adverse impact’ over time on sustainable agriculture, rural livelihoods and the environment.” The crops in question include Bt rice, eggplant and mustard. Eggplant (brinjal), one of the nation’s most important crops, was at the center of a controversy in 2011 when Monsanto was accused of trying to steal samples of the many eggplant varieties to create genetically modified versions.

India’s agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, is likely to find issue with the recommendation, as he recently issued his support for GMOs, seeing them as particularly necessary to help feed the country’s rapidly expanding population, and saying that GMOs could provide “cheap food” for nearly 70 percent of the country.

In 2012, India passed a law requiring labeling of all genetically modified foods.

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Image: The Dream Sky