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Govt advisory on illegal 'Genetically Modified' crops soon

Several cases of cultivation of illegal GM crops have been reported from across states in the last few months, prompting the Centre to step in.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 18, 2020, 07.38 AM IST
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The idea is to prepare an action plan once it is established that GM crops are grown illegally.

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New Delhi: The Centre is preparing an advisory to states and Union Territories to guard against "suspected illegal cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops", days after NCP president Sharad Pawar made a renewed pitch for GM crops. Farmer groups in Maharashtra and Telangana face legal issues too over alleged sowing of 'illegal GM crops'.

Several cases of cultivation of illegal GM crops have been reported from across states in the last few months, prompting the Centre to step in. The Ministry of Environment & Forests, in consultation with the apex scientific body that recommends cultivation of any GM crop - the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) - is learnt to be working on a mechanism and strategy to deal with illegal GM crop cultivation.

A draft advisory has already been shared with GEAC which is studying it closely to ensure effectiveness on ground, a source told ET. The advisory/protocol will be in line with the provisions under the “Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

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The idea is to prepare an action plan once it is established that GM crops are grown illegally. The advisory will detail steps taken to sanitise the site of cultivation to ensure that there are no biosafety implications of the illegal cultivation. It will also clearly specify on how to dispose such GM seeds and produce.

Currently, the only GM crop the government permits for cultivation is Bt Cotton. GM Brinjal was close to getting approval for cultivation in 2009-10, but environment minister Jairam Ramesh did not give the final nod. Though legally non-permissible, reports have surfaced over the last several months of cultivation of genetically modified Brinjal, Soyabean and varieties of cotton.

A petition in the Supreme Court seeks a 'contamination protocol' on illegal GM crops detailing steps to be taken to arrest and eradicate contamination and also to safeguard genetic stock. SC has issued a notice to the Shetkari Sangathan, a farmer’s union in Maharashtra.
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