Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government will examine the possibility for legislation against arbitrary introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops for field trials in Kerala, Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran said here on Monday.

At a news conference, the Minister said his department had requested the Law Department to examine the possibility for such a law in view of Kerala’s rich biodiversity and the export-oriented nature of the State’s agriculture. The State functioned within serious limitations in the matter and could not go in for legislative measures without examining all aspects of the issue.

Mr. Ratnakaran, accompanied by Kerala State Biodiversity Board Chairman V.S. Vijayan, said the State government had told the Centre that no field trial of GM crops should be conducted in Kerala without its concurrence.

On a field trial being detected by an NGO in north Kerala, he said there was nothing wrong in it, as such organisations were closest to the people. The government was a huge system, which, though it worked among the people, was dependent on such sources for most such information. The government was alert to the dangers of such field trials and wanted to play an active role in the formulation of a clear policy on GM crops at the national level. It had also written to the Centre seeking conduct of a public hearing on the proposal for introducing Bt brinjal, and hoped that its request would get a favourable response from the Centre.

He said the Agriculture Department and the Kerala State Biodiversity Board were jointly organising a national level workshop on “GM crops: their merits and demerits” here on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss in detail the implications of introducing GM crops on farmers’ welfare, biodiversity, especially agro-biodiversity, food security, seed and food sovereignty, cost issues and the question of intellectual property rights over the technology and seeds.

The Agriculture Ministers of seven States and experts — Devinder Sharma, Chairman, Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi; Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi; Pushpa M. Bhargava, Founder-Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Supreme Court’s nominee in the GEAC — were expected to attend the workshop to be inaugurated by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, he said.