There are no “credible scientific reports” to prove that genetically modified (GM) crops have adverse impact on environment, human health and livestock, the government said in Parliament on Tuesday.
“No madam, there are no credible scientific reports indicating that GM crops have adverse impact on environment, human health and livestock,” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
He added however that the government approves GM crops for commercial cultivation after extensively evaluating bio-safety, efficacy and agronomic performance of transgenic seeds, he said.
“A final view on the commercialisation of GM crops is taken only when there is a clear economic and technical justification for release,” Mr. Pawar said.
The government has allowed commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, while moratorium has been put on Bt brinjal.
Permission has been given to private companies to conduct field trials of GM crops such as cotton and corn in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
However, a technical committee appointed by the Supreme Court had last year recommended an indefinite moratorium on open field trials of GM crops till the deficiencies in the regulatory and safety systems are effectively addressed.
Bt cotton was approved in 2002. Currently, about 95 per cent of the cotton area is under Bt cotton.
Mr. Pawar said due to Bt cotton, yields rose to 488 kg per hectare in 2013 from 300 kg per hectare in 1992. Also, the usage of insecticide decline to 0.56 kg per hectare in 2011 from 0.88 kg per hectare in 2002.
To a query as to whether the government has taken measures to ensure traditional crops are not replaced with GM crops without adequate research, Mr. Pawar replied in the affirmative.
Measures to prevent pollen flow, storage of germplasm in gene banks and maintenance of distance are some steps taken to ensure traditional crops are not replaced with GM crops, he said, adding that traditional crops are maintained with option of using pre-breeding or hybridisation for crop improvement.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and state and central agricultural varsities are engaged in developing GM crops such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fibres, fruits and vegetables, Mr. Pawar added.