London (13.12.16) – The Indian government, in their response to a petition in the Supreme Court seeking prohibition of the commercial release of genetically-engineered mustard, says the regulatory process has not been completed so the opposition cannot seek relief as their rights have not been violated. The government claims the activists are ideologically motivated and are economical with facts, deliberately attempting to derail the regulatory process(1). In a statement to the Supreme Court, the government maintained that the report “was scientifically flawed, did not address the terms of reference and had not only exceeded the mandate assigned to TEC but is also outside the scope of the writ petition itself and therefore merited outright rejection.” There was one pithy comment from the daughter of a smallholder farmer in India: she agreed with the comments of a noted Indian anti-GM campaigner that “seeds must remain in the hands of farmers” but that is about all that they agreed on. The farmer’s daughter sees one big problem with GM crops in India: there are not enough of them.. She knows how things ought to be: “seeds—including GM seeds—must be in the hands of farmers” (2).

In neighbouring Bangladesh, the first field trial of the Golden Rice (3-5) has yielded promising results, triggering prospect of the vitamin A-rich grain's release as early as 2018 (6, 7). Provided the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute gets the necessary regulatory approval, the organisation would go for multi-location field trials in the next two years to begin the process of its commercial release. The inventors of Golden Rice as well as Syngenta, the company which developed the technology, are allowing royalty-free access to the underlying patents, meaning that the new rice would be of the same price as other rice varieties once released for commercial farming. Farmers would be able to share and replant the seeds as they wish.

Several recent reports refer to the practical aspects of GM-deployment in China. In one of them, the Chinese agriculture ministry said it would support a biotech food labelling system when it markets the first biotech soybean and corn within the next several years. The ministry said safety assessments show biotech foods are as safe as conventional foods, but it would support new laws and labelling to reassure consumers (8), Another (9) discusses the investment made by the Chinese government in a research program for the development of drought-resistant corn and wheat, disease-resistant rice and soybeans that produce more oil, as well as in CRISPR gene-editing technology to create disease-resistant wheat and tomatoes, and leaner pork. And a third discusses how China can assist in the development of GM-agriculture: by focussing on balancing the benefits to the producer, consumer and
the environment, and by develop a committed and well-funded educational program on biotech for the public (10). Incidentally, one of the possible benefits of GM-technology spoken of since its beginning is the idea of removing allergens from highly allergenic foods such as peanuts which cause a good deal of trouble and danger to people sensitive to them (11). So it was encouraging to read that Chinese scientists have genetically modified goats so their milk contains far less of the common allergen whey protein beta-lactoglobulin (12).

Australia, too, is on the move. The country now celebrating twenty years of life with GM (13, 14) is nevertheless still in South Australia and Tasmania beset by “antiquated moratoria”. It is surely now time to get rid of them.


1. Vivian Fernandes (November 2016). Govt accuses activists opposing GM mustard of blatantly lying in Supreme Court affidavit. Smart Indian Agriculture (

2. Aman Mann (7.12.16). The opportunity to choose seeds must be in the hands of Indian farmers. Global farmer Network (

3. Allow Golden Rice Now! (

4. Tests of Golden Rice in China. CropGen (8.9.12) (

5. Vandalism in the Philippines. CropGen(6.9.13) (

6. Reaz Ahmad (28.10.16). Vitamin A rice now a reality. Daily Star (

7. Partha S. Biswas, Donald J. MacKenzie and Violeta Villegas (October 2016). Recent advances in breeding Golden Rice in Bangladesh. Research Gate (

8. Dominique Patton (26.8.16). China seeks to assuage consumer fears over GMO foods. Reuters (

9. Steve Cerier (22.9.16). China lays groundwork to be major producer of GMO crops. Genetic Literacy Project (

10. Fei Han, Anthony M Shelton and Dingyang Zhou (12.7.16). How China can enhance adoption of biotech crops. Nature Biotechnology, 34, 693 (

11. Tanya Lewis (13.10,.15). In five years, we could be eating a new kind of GMO. Business Insider UK (

12. Cayla Dengate (12.7.16). Genetically modified goats made in China have allergy free milk. Huffington Post (

13. 20 years of benefiting from genetically modified crops proves time is up for antiquated moratoria. CropLife (6.6.16) (

14. Sarina Locke (6.6.16). Farmers continue to debate the merits of genetically modified crops as Monsanto marks 20 years of GM in Australia. Rural ABC (


  In the eastern hemisphere