Strengthening Agricultural Biotechnology Regulation in India
The recent decision by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to place an indefinite moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal for commercial agriculture has brought sharp focus on the stridently polarized views across the scientific community and civil society on the benefits and costs of genetically modified crops. Although agricultural biotechnology has significant potential to address India's food security, public debate has reflected concerns that the full range of potential consequences of these transgenic plants on human health, environment, and farmers' livelihoods must be understood adequately before releasing these plants for commercial agriculture. Because of the controversy surrounding agricultural biotechnology, it is crucial that India has a strong, transparent, and independent biotechnology regulatory regime that upholds rigorous safety standards without compromising efficiency. However, India's current regulatory regime is a fragmented system with several flaws. This policy brief outlines the crucial elements of a strong biotechnology regulatory regime in India, namely, a process-based regulatory system, an autonomous regulatory body, independent and qualified regulators, reliable information, transparent processes, and harmonization with international standards.