IBC seeks ban on field trials of GM crops

: The second Indian Biodiversity Congress (IBC 2012) held at Bangalore earlier this month has called for a ban on field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India and a 10-year moratorium on Bt food crops.

The three-day event, which witnessed a large turnout of scientists, conservationists, environmentalists, civil society groups and local communities from across the country, stressed the need to bring the regulation of biotechnological processes and products under the purview of the Biodiversity Act. For the purpose, the Department of Biotechnology should be brought within the Ministry of Environment and Forests, it suggested.

The recommendations, issued by the IBC secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, urged the government to exclude GM crops from India’s food security programmes and farming systems. It opposed the move to set up the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India to clear the cultivation of GM crops and instead proposed the adoption of the National Biosafety Protection Regime. The document called for a transparent, independent review of the 10 years of Bt cotton farming and its impact before extending its cultivation to more areas.

Biodiversity economics

It demanded a master plan for biodiversity economics of India to boost conservation efforts at the grassroots level. The master plan, it said, would take into account the greater biodiversity available outside the protected areas, particularly in villages.

The document stressed the need for clarification on the status of biodiversity registers and control over access to the documented resources and knowledge to prevent unapproved use of the registers by external forces. It also mooted the integration of biodiversity management committees with the panchayathi raj system.

Underlining the imperative to address the human-wildlife conflict in several parts of the country, the meet mooted steps to facilitate the exchange of information between the Forest Department and local people through grama sabhas. It suggested discussions on instances and frequency of conflict, adoption of precautionary steps like wildlife movement alerts and changes in cropping patterns as well as a mitigation measures like speedy compensation for affected farmers.

‘Exclude GM crops from food programmes’

Demands master plan for biodiversity economics