Updated on 18 June 2013
India breathes new life in its Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of India was reconstituted on March 11, 2013, following which the industry heaved a huge sigh of relief. The decision from India's environment ministry came only after repeated criticism by the industry as well as certain ministers within the government. The last meeting of the GEAC took place on April 11, 2012, and since then there were no fresh clearances given to any field trials for Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
A recent meeting under the chairmanship of Mr Hem Pande, additional secretary, ministry of environment and forests on March 22, 2013, decided that several issues, which require the attention of the GEAC, would have been taken up.
As per the agenda listed out for the meeting, apart from the clearances to field trials of various GM crops, it also take stock of the status of writ petition in the context of interim report submitted by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) constituted by the Supreme Court. Also, the 16-member committee reviewed 22 applications for extension of validity period or change in the location.
The co-chairman of GEAC, Prof. Sudhir Kumar Sopory, vice chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, when contacted by BioSpectrum said that he was unable to attend the meeting and he didn't elaborate the reasons for the same. The mails to GEAC chairman and other members went unanswered. The apparent reason perhaps is the clause in the committee's terms of references that mentions the undertaking by the members on not revealing any confidential information.
Industry welcomes the move!
While most of the industry representatives believe that GEAC is very important for the timely clearances of the GM crops for field trials, there are a few who think that mere clearance by a regulatory body is of no great help. This is because they have to then look for clearances from state governments to go ahead for conducting field trials.
Reacting to this, Dr N Seetharama, executive director, Association of Biotechnology led Enterprises-Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) said, "It is surely a right decision that has come on a right time. The vacuum created in between had to be filled as soon as possible."