19 April 2002
WAR OF WORDS WORSENS OVER BT COTTON
"Ever since the approval of three Bt cotton seeds for commercial cultivation was rushed through on March 26, this year, the issue has been encircled by controversy."
ICAR, GEAC Cross Swords Over Bt Cotton Issue
Ashok B Sharma
New Delhi, April 18: War of words has begun between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) over the Bt cotton issue.
ICAR has objected to the remarks made by GEAC chairman and additional-secretary in the environment ministry AM Gokhale that the transgenic Bt cotton hybrid, Mech 195, suitable for cultivation in north India, could not be approved as ICAR had not submitted its reports on its field trials.
Speaking to The Financial Express, the deputy director-general of ICAR Mangla Rai said that in the first place GEAC had not told Mahyco to supply Bt Mech 195 seeds for co-ordinated field trials under ICAR. He said that ICAR is a reputable organisation and cannot tolerate such false accusations from a responsible person like the GEAC chairman.
He said that ICAR, through the Coimbatore-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), had successfully conducted co-ordinated field trials of other Bt cotton varieties like Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184 and submitted its report in February. Had the seeds of Mech 195 been made available to ICAR for trials before the commencement of kharif season last year, it could have also conducted its trials in time.
Dr Rai stated that only on Wednesday ICAR came to know that Bt Mech 195 seeds would be supplied for field trials in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. He further said that the farmers in North India has already started sowing kharif crops and he wondered that with such a late intimation by GEAC whether it would be possible to conduct proper field trials in such a limited span of time.
Ever since the approval of three Bt cotton seeds for commercial cultivation was rushed through on March 26, this year, the issue has been encircled by controversy. Initially, Mr Gokhale said after the "approval" that GEAC will issue the notification on the next day after signatures from all members of the committee were obtained on the terms and conditions. But he suddenly changed his decision and went ahead to brief the media on the same day that Bt Mech 12, Bt Mech 162 and Bt Mech 184 were approved subject to certain terms and conditions. This action invited the wrath of some GEAC members which was reported earlier in The Financial Express.
ngin bulletin archive