Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Gene Campaign has sought a ban on the field trials of Bt rice that are taking place in parts of the country “in violation of regulations and conditions laid down for field trials of genetically modified crops.”

Saying that no country--that is the centre of origin of any crop--allows genetically modified(GM) version of that crop so as to protect the genetic wealth and diversity, Suman Sahai of the Campaign said that it was for that reason that Mexico banned GM corn, Peru disallowed GM potato, and China banned GM soyabean.

“India, which is the home of rice, should ban field trials of GM rice. The cereal is crucial to food security of the globe.”

Dr. Sahai, who visited a site of field trial in the Saparong taluka in Ratu district in Ranchi (Jharkhand) alleged that the Mahyco seed company had been conducting field trials “flouting every prescribed regulation and condition.”

Special concern

“The planting of genetically engineered (GE) rice in Jharkhand is of special concern since Jharkhand along with Orissa and Chattisgarh is considered the birthplace of rice and the maximum genetic diversity of rice is found here. Any genetic contamination from foreign genes like the Bt gene has the potential to have very detrimental effects on the genetic diversity of rice,” she said.

Apart from that, field trials like the Mahyco trial can result in GM rice entering the market and this can contaminate rice consignments meant for export.

This will spell doom for rice exporters who will lose their markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa, all regions that are opposed to GM crops and foods and do not allow it in their markets.

Past experience

“A few years ago, we saw in the U.S., that rice from a single field trial , conducted by the Ventria company, found its way into U.S. rice exports and was detected in places as far apart as Germany and Japan. This necessitated call of all U.S. rice, costing the country several million dollars. It also led to the crash of the rice markets that had been carefully built up by the U.S.”

She said Bt rice hybrids belonging to Mayco were planted in March and harvested in August, which is not the rice season in the State and it was not possible to test the efficacy of the Bt induced resistance to pests.

“To chose such a season is a mockery of trials and only to show that trials had taken place as no authentic data can be collected in this manner.”