Updated on 11 July 2013
The reason that made the industry smile is that, finally the government has managed to put the Bill through the first stage amidst stiff opposition from Parliament members, as also in the past, the previous science ministers were compelled to withdraw the Bill at the last moment and that too after listing it in the Lok Sabha business.
The industry experts say that the authority will be empowered to "develop and implement guidelines for risk assessment methodologies and monitor and conduct and forward messages about the safety of modern biotechnology products and processes to the central government and state governments," as per 9(3)(c) of the draft Bill. This will help create a credible system of risk assessment and put to rest many speculations being put forth about the health and environmental safety of biotech crops. Further the draft Bill also has the provision to "ensure that the process and criteria for risk assessment and risk management are easily accessible so that product developers, stakeholders, and the public can be confident that the biotechnology regulatory system is both credible and predictable," through its clause 9(3)(f).
In the past too, several government panels had recommended the creation of an independent regulatory body for the biotechnology sector. Prominent scientists such as Dr R A Mashelkar had in past expressed strong support for the Bill. In his recent interaction with BioSpectrum, Dr Mashelkar had noted, "It is very unfortunate that the BRAI Bill is still pending before the parliament despite it being a very important step for the growth and benefits of the industry. In fact it looks like that the government is keen to move forward in this regard. However, one has to understand that sometimes there are policy procedure delays. Yet, I am quite hopeful of its early implementation."
Dr Ram Kaundinya at the same time thinks that even as the government works on BRAI, GEAC should continue to steer decisions on trials. He adds, "Ours is one of the most stringent and competent regulatory mechanisms in GEAC-with three union ministries viz agriculture, science and technology, and biotech involved in it. Over the years GEAC as a competent regulatory agency has done a wonderful job and cleared large number of trials."
Sharing his views, Mr Neeraj Gupta, director, sales and marketing, Imperial Life Sciences, told BioSpectrum that it is certainly a welcome move by the government and any such decision to streamline the regulations has come at the right time when the industry needs it the most. "It is high time that biotech industry gets its due," he says.