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GEAC clears import of GM soyabean oil

GEAC clears import of GM soyabean oil
Also permits confined field trials of 13 GM crops, including rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton

Press Trust of India | New Delhi July 20, 2014 Last Updated at 10:40 IST

India's biotech regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has given green signal for the import of Genetically Modified (GM) soybean oil.

"Three applications for import of GM Soybean oil were permitted as highly processed food like oil do not contain detectable DNA or Proteins. The same was confirmed by Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) Mysore after testing of the oil samples," GEAC said, adding that more than 70 countries are importing GM soybean and canola oil.

The statutory body, which held its 121st meeting on Friday, also permitted confined field trials of 13 GM crops, including rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton, out of the 15 cases it considered.

GEAC Chairman Hem Pande said "field trials for certain varieties of GM crops including rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton had been cleared".

However, the field trials, or small scale experiments, on these crops were subject to No Objection Certificate (NOC) from state governments.

During the GEAC meeting, three cases of pharmaceuticals were also considered of which two were deferred and one case pertaining to revalidation of the GEAC nod was permitted.

Officials said GEAC had "virtually" not met for almost two years from April 2012 to March 2014 due to which which decision on 79 applications for field trials remained pending.

These 79 cases, recommended by Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of Biotechnology, included 37 cases of revalidation and 42 new cases involving confined (regulated) field trials related to cotton, rice, castor, maize, wheat, groundnut, sugarcane, chickpea, mustard, sorghum and brinjal.

The GEAC on Friday also decided to constitute a sub-committee to review the toxicology data generated by the applicants of GM brinjal developed by BejoSheetal P Limited and GM mustard developed by Delhi University South Campus in view of concerns raised by some of the members.

An official said all GM crops field trials are subject to stringent norms which are as per the international standards.

India has so far only allowed commercial growth of BT cotton with the issue of GM crops having been a highly controversial one for the country.

Sources said that the moratorium continues for BT brinjal and the only commercial release at present is cotton, which is grown on around 11 million hectares in the country.

The decision on commercialisation of BT brinjal is yet to by taken by the government, the sources said.