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Indian committee proposes halt to GMO field trials

A report from an Indian Parliamentary standing committee has recommended a halt to open field trials of genetically modified crops. It has raised various concerns about the prevalent regulatory mechanism, such as lack of completely objective assessments by the Genetic Engineering Appraisals Committee, and has advised that trials only be carried out in “strict containment” until its concerns are resolved. Disregarding the high adoption rate of Bt cotton by farmers, with an increase in sown area from 24,000 ha in 2001 to over 8 million ha currently, the committee concludes that GM crops have brought no benefit to farmers. It also feels that the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) suffers from too small a focus and has suggested the setting up of an “all-encompassing” Biosafety Authority. The founding of the BRAI was proposed by an Agriculture Ministry task force in 2004 ( Agrow No 451, p 20), but progress has been slow. The Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology came up with a draft plan in 2008 ( Agrow No 545, p 21).

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