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An Indian Parliamentary panel yesterday urged the government to halt all open-field trials of transgenic crops until it develops a better system of monitoring and oversight. The panel also called for a complete overhaul of the regulatory system, saying that it “reflects a pro-industry tilt”, and claiming that it is riddled with conflicts of interest.

In the 389-page report, the standing committee on agricultural research also demands a “thorough probe” into how permission was initially granted in 2009 to commercialize Bt brinjal (also known as aubergine, or eggplant) (see ‘Bt brinjal splits Indian cabinet‘). The crop was developed by Pune-based Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Company) in a joint venture with US seed giant Monsanto.

The committee said that it suspected a “collusion of the worst kind” behind the approval after it recorded a confession from the co-chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee that he was “getting calls” from industry and a minister to grant approval. The government intervened in 2010 to bar Bt brinjal cultivation (see ‘India’s transgenic aubergine in a stew‘)

“After critically analysing the evidence for and against the transgenic agricultural crops”, the committee’s report said that research and development on transgenic agricultural crops “should only be done in strict containment, and field trials under any garb should be discontinued forthwith”. The committee said it was more than convinced that there are better options available for increasing food production and productivity than transgenic crops.