With Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala raising concerns over field trial of GM crops without permission, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has issued new guidelines for GM seed companies to obtain prior approval from the state governments.

The apex regulator that gives approval to field trials of GM crops has also asked the company conducting the trial to provide the latitude and longitude of the field to ensure they are not close to any ecologically fragile zone.

“The committee (GEAC) has decided that the applicant applying for a field trial of any GM crop must first obtain a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the state government concerned and submit it to the GEAC,” a GEAC member said.

The company conducting the trial will also have to give the exact co-ordinates of the field where the trials are to be conducted so that it can be ensured that it is not close to any ecologically fragile zone or a water body, etc, the member added.

Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala had recently raised concerns over field trial of GM crops in their states without prior approval. They had lodged complaints with the centre in this regard.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had on March 15 last complained to the Centre about a Bt-maize trial by a multinational company at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) campus in Samastipur district without the permission of the state government.

The Association of Biotechnology led Enterprises - Agricultural Group (ABLE-AG), an industry body representing 14 leading agricultural biotechnology companies, said the step could lead to a delay in trials.

“We understand the spirit behind the GEAC directive but this step will hamper the smooth operation of field trial in a timely manner as the administrative work can take time and we might miss the planting season in some of the states,” ABLE-AG Chairman V.R. Kaundinya said.

Stating that the field experiments are of seasonal nature, Mr. Kaundinya said the whole purpose of conducting field trials would be defeated if it is delayed and the planting season gets over.

The GEAC directive comes after global environment NGO Greenpeace complained to the committee on alleged violation of bio-safety norms by seed company Monsanto during field trials of GM corn in a village in Bijapur district’s Sindagi taluk.

Monsanto has strongly refuted the claims made by Greenpeace.

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