Updated on 11 September 2012
Dr Seetharama Nadoor, executive director, ABLE-AG, has described the report as "disappointing" and "unfortunate". He added, "I am not discounting the whole report, but they have to understand that there needs to be a stability in the regulatory process, a kind of predictability especially when the R&D of such products takes 10-to-15 years. Of course there are things that need to be improved, but there is no need to outright reject the regulatory policy currently in place."
A ban on such field trials would be unlike the moratorium placed on Bt brinjal a few years back, since it would stifle the development of the product at the research stage itself, rather than at the time of commercialization. Dr Nadoor adds, "Not allowing field trials for new varieties would be akin to developing a drug but never testing it on humans. Crops are meant to grow in the field. Stopping field trials, would mean all companies are as good as finished and government institutes can only publish papers on their research."
The only transgenic crop that has been successfully introduced in India, Bt cotton, is widely studied in the report. The document mentions the positive effect Bt cotton has had on improving cotton productivity in India, but at the same time presents the claims of changes in organ physiology in animals fed Bt cotton seed. Also, the committee has recommended for an "all encompassing umbrella legislation on bio-safety" instead of a biotech regulatory bill. It remains to be seen if this might serve as an additional roadblock in getting the already delayed BRAI bill from getting passed in the parliament.
The report has gathered support from all quarters of the anti-GM lobby. Ms Neha Saigal, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India, said, "The standing committee report exposes the serious gaps in our country's GM regulatory system and the lopsided GM technology promotion policies of the government." She added that since only "profit-motivated seed companies" were to benefit from GM crops, the government needed to rethink its prior decisions.
Dr PM Bharagava, noted scientist, founder and director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), was one of the people who had deposed to the committee and was mentioned in the report as well. The committee pointed out that his recommendations for additional testing of Bt brinjal were not carried out by the GEAC, for whom Dr Bhargava is also a supreme court nominee. As a result, the committee also hints at a "collusion of the worst kind" for the approval of Bt brinjal without the necessary tests.