NEW DELHI: The government has, for the moment, shut the door on transgenic crops.
The inter-departmental Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has rejected the case for commercialising transgenic cotton in north India and asked for more trials on genetically-modified (GM) mustard.
This comes amid clear indications that the government no longer believes the first harvest of pest-resistant Bt cotton in south and central India is as "satisfactory" as it had earlier maintained.
Anti-GM activists may end up having the last laugh. For, in an admission that their monitoring mechanisms leave much to be desired, officials now say the three Bt cotton hybrids from Mahyco Monsanto cleared for conditional commercialisation last year have not performed as well as the best of non-transgenic varieties.
The GEAC also refused Proagro Seed's application for commercialisation of transgenic, higher-yielding mustard.
Five months after this first came up before GEAC, the committee decided the trials conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on this were not "conclusive". Nor was the committee satisfied that health risks had been addressed.
ICAR has been asked to conduct further trials to decide yield benefits and risks that alien genes in Proagro's mustard may cross over to local varieties. ICAR, said an official, would decide how many trials are needed.
Since mustard is a food crop, "further studies" are needed to establish health safety.