State grants NOCs for GM field trials

The state government has granted no-objection certificates (NOC) for “confined field trials” of genetically modified (GM) crops to over 15 applicant entities. The permission has come in the wake of a report by Anil Kakodkar Committee recommending grant of permission with certain restrictions. The committee had been constituted by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

The permission was made necessary by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in June 2012 after Bihar and Kerala chief ministers had reportedly claimed it should be necessary since agriculture is a state subject. “This despite there being no provision for such a permission being a pre-requisite under the Environment Protection Act,” said a senior official.

NOCs to trials in the state were issued by the agriculture department earlier this month to over 15 applicants. They, however, put many conditions, such as the applicant entity, private or government, will have to conduct trials on the premises of some other company or organisation. For instance, Nagpur’s Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has been asked to conduct trials on the fields of Punjabrao Krishi Vidyapeeth (PKV), a state agriculture university. They will also have to get their research and development facilities examined by Agriculture Department officials and state agriculture university experts.

To verify the genetic engineering aspect of the trial, the company has to get verification of trait and gene nucleotide sequences at CICR lab, Nagpur. The companies will have to get actual physical verification of the presence of gene and expression of traits at CICR, said a stipulation. The applicants will also have to get intellectual property rights issued and protocols verified at CICR.

After confined field trials are over, the applicant entity will have to submit a report on trait field efficacy evaluation, net economic trait value, ecological and environmental impact assessment, micro and macro economic impact assessment vis-a-vis farms and trade, social impact assessment and technology sustainability issues to the monitoring and impact assessment team constituted by the Agriculture Commissioner.