20) ICRISAT and Biotech Consortium India Ltd organize workshop on Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

Hyderabad, India (23 November 2013) – The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL), New Delhi today organized a workshop on Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops at the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru near Hyderabad.

BCIL is an organization supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India and the All India Financial Institutions to facilitate commercialization of biotechnology and promote awareness on latest developments in the field.

In view of the increasing role of scientists and officials at state level in the development and evaluation of GM crops, BCIL has initiated communication and outreach activities through agricultural research institutions and state agricultural universities. The workshop was organized by BCIL in partnership with ICRISAT as part of this initiative. It was conducted parallel with the ongoing international workshop on Genetic Engineering Applications in Grains and Legume Crops organized by ICRISAT.

Participants of the workshop included scientists from various public and private sectors engaged in the development of GM crops. Research Institutions engaged in food safety assessment as well as those conducting confined field trials have also nominated scientists to participate.

In his keynote address, Dr P Ananda Kumar, Director, Institute of Agri biotechnology, ANGRAU spoke on the “Role of GM crops: Beyond Bt cotton.” According to him, several GM crops are at various stages of research and development in India. He emphasized on the need to streamline regulations so that technologies can be taken forward.

“The phenomenon success of Bt cotton has clearly shown the need for GM technology to deal with problems being faced by Indian agriculture sector,” he said. “Biosafety concerns can be clearly addressed by scientific institutions in the country as effective capabilities are available with us.” he added.

Dr Vibha Ahuja, Chief General Manager, BCIL introduced the objective of the workshop, highlighting the need for extensive capacity building efforts in the area of safety assessment and of confined field trials using state-of-the-art guidelines.

Dr B Sesikeran, former Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and Chairman, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) spoke on science and safety issues with emphasis on food safety. “Indian food safety standards are based on best international practices, and are in accordance with the principles and guidelines of Codex Alimentarius,” he said. He explained the key issues involved in food safety assessment such as, toxicity, allergenicity and compositional analysis, saying that India’s food safety standards provide sufficient information for the safety assessment of GM products.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, ICRSAT said that the Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) at ICRISAT is regularly involved in the conduct of awareness workshops to promote scientific and factual information on biotechnology products to the stakeholders.

At the workshop, BCIL introduced an “e Learning Module on Compliance Management of Confined Field Trials” as a useful tool for Trial-in-Charges, for members of various committees at center and state levels, scientists from various public and private sector institutions, and other stakeholders engaged in the development of GM crops.

Dr SJ Rahman from ANGRAU explained in detail the procedure for the conduct of confined field trials. There was also a session focused on ongoing research and development efforts in various institutions. Presentations were made by scientists from the Directorate of Rice Research, the Directorate of Sorghum Research and ICRISAT. The workshop was attended by more than 80 participants.

 

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