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Greenpeace finds flaws in GM corn biosafety data

Posted on Jan 30, 04:03PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Jan 30 : An independent scientific analysis released by environmental organization Greenpeace India exposed major flaws in the Genetically Modified (GM) corn biosafety assessment process by the regulatory bodies in India.

Greenpeace India had asked Testbiotech, an independent research agency, to assess data presented by the US biotech giant, Monsanto, to the Indian authorities 'for biosafety tests prior to commercial approval' of its GM corn variety.

The stacked gene GM corn (MON89034xNK603 ) with bacterial genes for pest resistance and herbicide tolerance leads the GM crop approval pipeline and has been released into fields several times in the past 4 years in the name of field trials .

The biosafety and field trials data of the said GM corn data was accessed by Greenpeace through RTI procedures from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is the nodal agency for all environmental releases of GMOs in India.

The RTI exercise also saw the CPIO of DBT being reprimanded by the Appellate Authority for providing wrong information to the applicant.

"On one hand the GM regulatory system in our country tries to hide crucial public information like the biosafety data of GM crops and on the other hand allows open field trials of them, which can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply chain. These field trials have been permitted for the last 4 years without biosafety studies being completed," said Shivani Shah, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India.

According to the response received from DBT, these trials were permitted based on biosafety data generated by Monsanto itself in its labs in USA.

The Testbiotech analysis highlights that even those assessments' presented have been found to be incomplete and lacking in scientific rigor, said Greenpeace.

"Interestingly most of the data provided was for the parent lines with the single genes with almost no studies on the stacked gene corn for which was the application," it said.

The review report concluded that based on the data presented by Monsanto, no decisions can be taken on the safety of the plants.

Apart from missing data and inadequate investigations, there are in fact substantial indications for health and environmental risks, said Greenpeace.

This stacked gene variety of Monsanto's corn had been in controversy earlier in 2011 when Greenpeace had exposed grave violations of field trial rules by the company in its trials at Bijapur District in Karnataka.

"In the light of increasing evidences of failure of the GM regulatory system in India and the potential impacts of GM crops to our health, environment and socioeconomic realities," said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace India demanded Union Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, under whom sits the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), to stop all open releases of GM crops, including those for field trials.