Modi's 'Make in India' bats for GM food crops

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 'Make in India' campaign has pitched India as a potential investment ground for genetically modified (GM) crops almost making it certain its pro stance towards the biotech food crops.

"India has the potential to become a major producer of transgenic rice and several genetically modified (GM) or engineered vegetables," said a statement in the "Reasons to Invest" section of the biotechnology sector posted on the campaign's official website.

This comes despite sharp criticism the union government received from various Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated organisations on giving nod to conduct field trials of two varieties of GM crops in a few states recently.

Modi's signature campaign 'Make in India' is aimed to make country an investment hub and export powerhouse.

It also stated that GM food crops are an investment opportunity for foreign players as it will open up new business opportunities in the country. "Hybrid seeds, including GM seeds, represent new business opportunities in India based on yield improvement," stated another statement.

This is the first time the NDA government has made public its stance on allowing field trials for GM food crops.

On Wednesday, the union government had stated in the Parliament that it has not banned the field trials of GM crops so far. "As of date, there is no ban on GM crop field trials neither by the government nor the Supreme Court," union environment minister Prakash Javadekar had said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

Javadekar had said the previous government led by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had submitted a join common affidavit in April 2014 advocating the field trials of GM crops to be allowed across the country. Javadekar, however, didn't dismiss this view and said that the field trials should be allowed in the national interest.

"The union government is of the view that research in GM and confined field trials for generating biosafety data with all due precautions should be allowed to continue in the national interest," added Javadekar.

The NDA government had passed an order on August 21, based on the approval given by the biotech regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in its meeting held on August 18, to allow field trials of GM for two food crops -- mustard and brinjal.

The GEAC had approved field trials of 13 GM crops, including those of mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chickpea which were strongly opposed by the Sangh Parivar organisations such as Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Under pressure from these groups, Javadekar had reportedly put on hold field trials on July 29.