A recent news report stated that the Planning Commission has advocated putting in place a “proper regulatory mechanism” before permitting the use of genetic modification in Indian crops. A recent Standing Committee report on genetically modified (GM) crops found shortcomings in the regulatory framework for such crops. The current framework is regulated primarily by two bodies: the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM). Given the inadequacy of the regulatory framework, the Standing Committee recommended that all research and development activities on transgenic crops be carried out only in containment (in laboratories) and that ongoing field trials in all states be discontinued. The blog provides a brief background on GM crops, their regulation in India and the key recommendations of the Standing Committee. What is GM technology? GM crops are usually developed through the insertion or deletion of genes from plant cells. Bt technology is a type of genetic modification in crops. It was introduced in India with Bt cotton. The debate around GM crops has revolved around issues of economic efficacy, human health, consumer choice and farmers’ rights. Some advantages of Bt technology are that it increases crop yield, decreases the use of pesticides, and improves quality of crops. However, the technology has also been known to cause crop loss due to resistance developed by pests and destruction of local crop varieties, impacting biodiversity. Approval process for commercial release of GM crops
Committee’s recommendations for strengthening the regulatory process The Standing Committee report found several shortcomings in the regulatory framework, some of which are as follows:
Note that over the last few sessions of Parliament, the government has listed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill for introduction; however the Bill has not been introduced yet. The Bill sets up an independent authority for the regulation of GM crops. For a PRS summary of the report and access to the full report, see here and here.