Illegal GM soy seized in Gujarat

New Delhi: Authorities in Gujarat have seized 1,200kg crop material and arrested two farmers and a seed distributor in Aravalli district for the alleged sale and cultivation of genetically modified soy unapproved for use in India, a state agricultural official said.

The cultivation of an unapproved GM crop, first suspected by a farmer in Modasa town who alerted state officials, exposes what activists campaigning against modified crops say is the failure of regulatory agencies to establish mechanisms to prevent such transgressions.

The farmer stumbled upon the GM soy cultivation on October 19 when he learnt about another peasant in his locality using a herbicide on what was later found to be a crop modified to be herbicide-tolerant, the official said.

"We picked up samples and sent them for testing in a certified laboratory in Gandhinagar where some were confirmed as illegal GM soy," A.P. Patel, deputy director of agriculture in Aravalli, said.

The cultivation of GM crops - whether for field trials or on commercial farms - needs to be approved by a government panel called the Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment and forests ministry.

India has so far approved only GM cotton for commercial cultivation although a few other plants, including brinjal and mustard, have been assessed in experimental conditions. The GEAC has not approved any edible GM crop yet.

The illegal GM soy cultivation in Gujarat has angered activists campaigning against GM crops.

"The regulatory system is clearly in tatters.... The government has to think of a serious overhaul of the entire set-up and significant improvements in inter-agency coordination is required to ensure that no illegal GM cultivation or sales take place in the country," the Coalition for a GM Free India said in a statement released on Tuesday.


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