ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Inter-Academy Report on Genetically Engineered Crops: Is It Making a Farce of Science?

The leading academies of science in India have, at the request of the government, prepared a report that was expected to give an independent scientific review of transgenic crops and the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Bill. But the Inter- Academy Report that has been prepared is disappointing on several fronts - in its science, ethics and writing style.

In October 2009, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) gave permission to go ahead with the commercial planting of Bt-brinjal, the brinjal containing the pesticide gene from bacillus thuringiensis,1 in India. In the wake of protests from various groups, a series of public consultations were held following which the Ministry of Environment and Forests decided to place a moratorium on the commercial planting of this transgenic2 plant variety.

Jairam Ramesh, union minister of state for environment and forests, and K Kasturirangan, member of the Planning Commission, then requested the leading scientific academies of India to provide an independent scientific review of transgenic crops and the Biotechnology Regulatory Bill under discussion in the government. The National Academy of Agricultural S ciences had earlier submitted suggestions on the Biotechnology Regulatory Bill. The inter-academy report (IAR) concentrated on genetically modified (GM) crops and on Bt-brinjal in particular.3 The presidents of leading Indian scientific academies – The Indian Academy of S ciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, The National Academy of Sciences (India), The Indian National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and The National Academy of Medical Sciences– have signed off on the IAR, which i ncludes an appraisal and a set of recommendations that are intended to be useful to policymakers (Sood et al 2010).

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