Retrieve GM cotton from market, Gujarat told

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. The Centre has directed the Gujarat Government to ``retrieve to the extent possible'' the genetically-modified (GM) cotton that has reportedly entered the market. It has also asked the State Government to notify that the material is ``not tested for safety.''

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the Ministry of Environment & Forests - which is authorised to approve the release and commercialisation of GM crops - took these decisions at a meeting here. It asked the Gujarat Government to ``destroy the seeds and store away the lint.''

It has further directed that the destruction of the crop residue be ensured by uprooting, burning and sanitising the fields. The Andhra Pradesh Government has also been asked to immediately stop the seed production and multiplication programme of the Bt seeds.

The meeting was convened in the wake of the Gujarat Government's information on the plucking of cotton bolls and their possible entry in the market. Last month, the GEAC had asked the Government to destroy all standing crop and the cotton seeds harvested by the farmers.

Meanwhile, the Europe-based environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has criticised the Centre for its inability to regulate control systems and described the release of GM crops in the environment as ``ludicrous.'' In a release today, it flayed the Centre for absolving the Agriculture Ministry of any liability.

The GEAC has blamed the Navbharat Seeds - the private company accused of marketing the transgenic Bt cotton seeds - without approval. According to an official spokesman, the cotton has been grown in 11,000 acres and tests have shown that they are genetically-engineered, making them resistant to certain insects.

The Navbharat has been charged with selling ``illegal'' cotton seeds to farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab for largescale field trials in Indian conditions.

However, the Greenpeace said the company had not committed any offence under the Seed Act and that the incident was being used as a tool to legitimise Bt cotton and help the gene giant, Monsanto, to become the final beneficiary.

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