Rallis India Ltd approached Karnataka for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to conduct confined field trials of herbicide-tolerant genetically modified maize and cotton.

The seed division of Rallis India Ltd has developed genetically modified corn plants that are resistant to Fall Armyworm, stem borer and the herbicide glyphosate. They have also developed cotton that is resistant to the bollworm and the herbicide glyphosate.

Rallis India, which sought the NOC in July this year, informed the state government that it had completed level one regulated field trials of genetically modified maize and cotton.

The main objective

“We have noted that these techniques are highly effective in controlling major pests of cotton and corn as well as eliminating reliance on manual work to remove weeds,” the company said it is seeking permission for the second level of trials called BRL1 or Biosafety Research Level 1.

The main objective of these experiments is to assess the safety of newly developed maize and cotton plants towards humans, animals and the environment and to know the performance of these plants in confined fields.

Rallis has requested permission from Karnataka to conduct BRL1 trials for two consecutive years 2021-22 and 2022-23. The proposed experiments to be conducted on an acre of land each for cotton and maize in cooperation with the State Agricultural University will be in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Biotechnology.

Then, the Karnataka Forest, Environment and Environment Department invited comments/objections from the public before the end of this month.

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According to criteria changed early this year, a NOC to conduct BRL1 trials must be sought from the state before approval by the Genetic Engineering Evaluation Committee (GEAC), the regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

“typical response”

But this made the pro-GMO and anti-GMO groups unhappy.

“It is unfortunate that GEAC made this decision to require companies to obtain a state NOC first before GEAC gives their approval. I think this is counterproductive. Countries will not have the scientific capabilities to actually make the decision and they do not have the full information on the technology. On what basis will they give (No objection certificate.) The typical response is what Karnataka has done which is to put up a public consultation, which is actually a bad way to assess science and technology, said Ram Kaundinya, Director General of the Seed Industry Federation of India (FSII).

“Karnataka must agree to field trials and respond to the need for scientific evaluation of technology. At the same time, GEAC must change the norm and revise the process they follow. GEAC must resort to the previous process.

The anti-GMO camp feels that Karnataka should not give a no-objection certificate for field trials. On the one hand, Karnataka’s move to seek public opinion appears to be progressive. On the other hand, this is not actually a positive because as many other countries have taken a political view and have already made a decision on GM crops, which also means that they are preventing field trials and not just commercial farming, it is not clear why Karnataka is from for sustainable and inclusive agriculture.

no policy

States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh said no to GMO crops. “The lack of a policy against GM crops in the state is a problem, and in the past Karnataka has had serious problems with the way field trials are being conducted,” Kuruganti said.

Furthermore, herbicide-resistant corn means that the use of glyphosate will increase and will have its own health and environmental impacts.

Kuruganti added: “We certainly believe that the Karnataka government should not give a no-objection certificate to these requests and should take a political decision against any of these requests.”

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