Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Shri Namo Narayan Meena said biotechnology would dominate the 21st century just as information technology dominated the last century.
Addressing the 10th meeting of the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, last night, he informed the meeting that the stay on Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has been vacated today during judicial hearing. The entire research activities of the country that was at a standstill will get momentum and Genetic Engineering Approval Committee will be able to work speedily. Shri Meena assured along with treating this field as a priority area with investments, priority would be given to proper risk assessment and appropriate measures to mitigate its adverse impacts.
Before the presentation on living modified organisms- LMOs and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), he said in bio-pharma and bio-seeds industries, the turnover has already crossed a billion mark and the growth rate is estimated as 40 per cent. Referring to the approval of transgenic crop Bt cotton and 20 recombinant therapeutic products in India, he said 62 hybrids of cotton have been approved for commercial cultivation across 9 cotton-growing states viz; Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu after reviewing the performance and other criteria.
The area under cotton cultivation has increased from 72,000 acres in 2002 to 93 lakh acres in 2006. Overall production has gone up to 24.4 million bales in 2005-06 as compared to 15.8 million bales in 2001-02. The productivity has increased from 308 kg. Per hectare to 450 kg. Per hectare during the same period. The Minister of State added the pesticide usage has also come down by 2260 MT during 2005-06. Though there has been overall acceptance of the Bt technology by cotton growing farmers, the issues and concerns raised are being examined by the Regulatory Agencies. He said Bt cotton is the first GM crop in the country, which is making us to pass through learning phase. Sale of illegal/ spurious seeds insect resistant management, compliance of conditions etc. are various issues that will be taken care of by the Ministry.
This Ministry is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of Cartagena Protocol on Bio-Safety. This is an International Agreement under Convention of biological diversity. The Ministry is also implementing a World Bank GEF capacity building project on bio-safety which includes strengthening the national capacity for effective legislative frame-work, operational mechanism, establishing bio-safety data base and supporting a network for research in the area of risk assessment and monitoring.
The Committee Members appreciated the presentation on Bio-safety Regulation of Living Modified Organisms as well as Genetically Modified Organisms in India. They inquired about the Authority, which will monitor and control Bio-Safety assessments of transgenic crops. Welcoming the higher production of Bt cotton, Members suggested to improve the quality of long staple in cotton.
Earlier, Members also sought the action taken on the projects and progress, which were discussed during the last Consultative Committee Meeting. Concluding the Meeting, Shri Meena said that Bio-technology has the potential for ensuring food security, decreased pressure on land use, increased crop yields and reduced use of water and agrochemicals in agriculture. Genetic engineering offers benefits for agriculture, medical treatments, new industrial products, improved fibers and fuels, Shri Mahaveer Bhagora, Dushyant Singh, Basudeb Barman, from Lok Sabha and Shri R.Shunmugasundaram from Rajya Sabha attended the Meeting.