The country's biotech regulator GEAC has decided to transfer the responsibility of conduting evaluation and giving approval to genetically modified Bt cotton to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The decision to transfer the responsibility to ICAR was taken during a meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry which met here last week. This responsibility was till now with a Standing Committee in Department of Biotechnology (DBT). "It was decided that the entire responsibility related to evaluation, approval and monitoring of Bt Cotton hybrids including confirmation of presence of approved gene or event, would be transferred to ICAR for which ICAR has also given its consent," an Environment Ministry source said. According to sources, after 2005, the number of applications for release of hybrids increased in GEAC. Following this, a sub-committee to review the Bt cotton and related issues was set up under the Chairmanship of C D Mayee. Under that an 'Event-based Approval Mechanism (EBAM)' for release of the Bt Cotton hybrids was recommended.
This Committee was serviced from then onwards by a Standing Committee in Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Senior Environment Ministry officials, however said that the contentious issue of commercial release of GM mustard did not figure in the agenda during this particular meeting of GEAC. Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India. The approval was first accorded in April 2002 following an extensive review of biosafety testing and field trials data evaluation.
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