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Say no to GM food in India
*GEAC will examine the merit of two recent international reports that claim the food product isn't safe

New Delhi: A regulatory body that oversees genetically modified, or GM, crops is set to look at the merit of two recent international reports that say the Indian GM brinjal isn’t safe for consumption.

The scrutiny by the genetic engineering approval committee, or GEAC, may impede the progress of the GM brinjal from field trials to dining tables. If approved, it would be the first genetically modified food to become commercially available in the country.

Pushpa Bhargava, a Supreme Court-appointed observer to GEAC, said: “I’ve been told that a sub-committee would be appointed to look into these reports. But that would be pointless, unless it was made up of experts independent of GEAC.”

Bhargava, a molecular biologist and former vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister, has been critical of the functioning of GEAC. He has also frequently questioned “the manner in which GM crops have been given approval in India”.

Mint couldn’t immediately confirm with GEAC about the plans to set up a committee to study the reports.

The two studies questioning the safety of Indian GM brinjal were made public last month. One was by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a scientist at the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (Criigen), a French environmental organization, and the other by Judy Carman of Australia-based Institute of Health and Environmental Research, an organization that studies health effects of genetically modified organisms.

These studies say that the tests performed by Mahyco Ltd, a Maharashtra-based seed company, are insufficient to prove the safety of Indian GM brinjal. Mahyco wants to commercially launch GM brinjal in India.

Seralini’s report said: “... This GMO (genetically modified organism) may present a serious risk to human and animal health and the release should be refused in the state.” Seralini was commissioned by Greenpeace India to conduct the study.

In her report, Carman states that she had conducted the study partly on a request by Aruna Rodrigues, an activist who's petitioning the Supreme Court for a moratorium on GM seed testing in India.

Mahyco, in a press statement on Monday, claimed that all its studies followed norms prescribed by GEAC. “We’ve not been told about the committee yet,” said M.K. Sharma, general manager, Mahyco. “We are at advanced stages of field trial for GM brinjal and our results are extremely promising.”

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