Trials on genetically modified food or non-food crops would be carried out only after the settlement of a case pending before the Supreme Court, a senior official with the department of biotechnology said on Tuesday.
Though the department had decided to release GM brinjal, followed by cauliflower and cabbage, the apex court has stayed fresh trials by its order in October 2006 and the case would come up for next hearing on April 16, K K Tripathi, advisor, DoB, told reporters in New Delhi.
Almost all trials, including toxicity, have been carried out with regard to brinjal and only environmental safety and agro-climatic condition trials have to be conducted.
The department would release GM crops, after carrying all the safety trials, he said.
Similarly, research and trials were going on in many food and non-food crops in "greenhouse", Tripathi said, adding that the department has carried out trials in rice and started in maize for weed and stem-borer resistance.
Tripathi, who is in New Delhi to participate in a 'Consultation on Safety Assessment of GM Food Crops', said there was no cause for apprehension for farmers to adopt BT seeds, which in real terms, were beneficial.
However, 'certain vested interests' were driving away innocent farmers from utilising the technology to increase production, Tripathi said.
Earlier addressing the meeting, Tripathi said the safety assessment issue should not be confined to GM food alone, but to other normal crops also.
Since the GM food would contribute considerably in the food and nutritious security of the country, it would not be advisable to take a negative outlook on GM food alone, he said.
Inaugurating the meeting, C Ramasamy, vice-chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, said the country was witnessing a revolution in biotechnology that has far-reaching implications for medicine and agriculture and consequently for society beyond anything previously imaginable in the history of science.
However, rapid advances in development and commercialistion of transgenic plants have led to considerable apprehensions and concerns about the safety of the GM crops for human and animal health and environment.
A risk-based protocol safety evaluation would greatly reduce the time and costs involved in developing most new gene-spliced crops, many of which could raise the standard of living worldwide, Ramasamy said.
As countries like India approach possible commercialisation and consumption of GM food product in the near future, there would be a greater challenge of educating the general public, including farmers and consumers, besides extension agencies about potential benefits and constraints of biotechnology in agriculture, Ramasamy added.