GM crops bounce back with gains in production areas

[MANILA] Global acceptance of genetically modified (GM) crops sprang back in 2016 after suffering a decline in 2015, according to estimates by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

According to ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialised Biotech/GM Crops: 2016, released in May, 185.10 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 2016, showing an increase from 179.70 million hectares in 2015. In 2014, the global area under GM crops was 181.50 million hectares.

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Genetically-modified mustard gets GEAC nod for cultivation

The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision.

AFTER MONTHS of suspense, a genetically-modified variety of mustard, developed by a Delhi-based institute, has been cleared for commercial cultivation by the country’s top regulator on genetically-engineered organisms. The GEAC, or Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a body that functions under the Environment Ministry, on Thursday gave its recommendation to approve the long-pending application of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University which had developed a transgenic mustard called DMH-11.

The recommendation for clearance has been sent to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who has to approve the decision. The GEAC’s decision on Thursday puts DHM-11 mustard at a stage where Bt brinjal, a transgenic variety of brinjal, had found itself seven years ago. Bt brinjal was the first genetically modified food crop that had reached the Environment Minister’s table for clearance after obtaining all the necessary regulatory requirements. The then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, had refused clearance and put an indefinite moratorium the decision. That moratorium continues to this day.

GM mustard is the only other food crop which has made it to this last stage, after prolonged debate and several rounds of regulatory checks that has been going on for years. It is not clear what Dave would decide on this crop.

But organisations opposed to genetically-modified crops slammed the GEAC’s decision. “GEAC has proved yet again that it is unscientific and uncaring with regard to citizens’ health and environment. They have failed in their very mandate and purpose for which they have been created, to protect citizens from the risk of GMOs… We hope and urge minister Anil Madhav Dave to be responsible in his decision-making. This GM mustard should be rejected just as Bt brinjal was, seven years ago,” said Sarson Satyagraha which claims to be a platform for “hundreds of organisations” representing farmers and scientists opposed to introduction of GM mustard.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi in Indian Express website.  See original article link here.1212

Global biotech firms positive on GM regulatory regime

NEW DELHI: Global biotechnology firms are positive about India’s robust regulatory regime for approving genetically modified crops, which has started functioning transparently and effectively in recent months after years of lethargy , though concerns over Monsanto’s woes linger, top executives representing international companies said.

The key change in the regulatory approach is in the regular meetings of the apex approval body, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is now meeting every month, ending its inactive phase when the panel didn’t meet for long periods, at times for a year, executives said.

“Process at the central level has improved a lot since last few months,” said Shivendra Bajaj, executive director of Association of Biotech-led Enterprises, Agriculture-focus Group (ABLE-AG).

“Now, GEAC is happening on a regular basis (and) has been very transparent. They have been doing the right thing now. I think the present position of the (Central) government with regard to science is encouraging.” ABLE-AG counts Bayer, Monsanto, Syngentaand Dow Agrsciences among its members. As the dispute between the biotechnology companies and indigenous seed manufacturers over patent rights lingers, the favourable assessment of a key committee formed under the GEAC with regard to genetically-modified (GM) mustard or ‘DMH-11’ has invigora ted biotechnology providers about the prospects of investing in India.

The process of approval for transgenic crops includes biosafety committees, review committees, monitoring and evaluation committees for field trials, and the GEAC, following which the environment ministry needs to sign off for commercialisation of GM crops.

Case in point is the moratorium on Bt brinjal despite GEAC clearance.Further, states have the option of refusing to allow field trials or deployment of GM crops despite regulatory approvals. And this is where, according to the biotech firms, maximum reform needs to take place. “There is a process of NOC before you. Certain states have come on record who refuse (to give an NOC). So, even if GEAC approves, the state government is a major challenge for us,” said Bajaj.

-Published in The Economic Times.  See article link here.

India soon to make GM mustard stance public, develop more varieties

The Indian government will soon make public its stance on allowing the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard – what could be its first transgenic food crop – and “ideology” will not influence the decision, a minister said.

The mustard variety has been developed by a group of New Delhi scientists over the past decade, and Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said India would also come up with other GM food as its population increases and arable land shrinks.

“You’ll get to know about our view on GM mustard very soon,” Dave, whose ministry decides on GM crops, told Reuters on Friday.

“Naturally if Indian scientists do some research for India, that is an advantage. India’s money is staying within India.”

Allowing GM mustard is seen as critical to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of attaining self-sufficiency in edible oils.

India spends around $12 billion annually on vegetable oil imports. GM mustard – with yields up to 30 percent higher than normal varieties, also loosely called rapeseed – will give Modi a chance to slash this bill.

But the path to a commercial launch is not without hurdles.

Public opposition to lab-altered food remains fierce, including from groups close to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who object to reliance on technology developed mainly by Western countries.

This could throw a spanner in the works for GM mustard, which recently got technical approval from a panel of government and independent experts after multiple reviews of crop trial data.

In 2010, India placed a moratorium on GM eggplant and that too after an expert panel had given its clearance, effectively bringing the regulatory system to a deadlock.

But Modi, who was instrumental in making the western state of Gujarat India’s leading user of GM cotton while chief minister there, cleared several field trials for GM crops soon after taking office in New Delhi in 2014.

“You must have different parameters for what you eat and what you only come in contact with, like cotton,” Dave said. “(But) eventually it is the doctor who gives the medicine. Ideology has no connection with this.”

-Written by Krishna N. Das and Mayank Bhardwaj (New Delhi) and published in Reuters.  See article link here.