Regulatory Approach Towards GM Technology in India, USA and EU: A Comparative Analysis

Date01 December 2019
Publication Date01 December 2019
AuthorAsheesh Navneet
Regulatory Approach
Towards GM Technology
in India, USA and EU:
A Comparative Analysis
Asheesh Navneet1
The article mainly deals with the complications involved in the regulation of
genetically modified (GM) technology in India by comparing it with the regulatory
mechanisms developed in the USA and the European Union (EU). The only GM
crop that has been approved for commercial cultivation in India is Bt cotton. It
has been observed that apart from Bt cotton, whenever the Indian regulatory
bodies tried to approve any other GM food crops, protests have erupted from
several sections of the Indian civil society. As a result, Ministry of Environment,
Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has been compelled to take political
decision of not to allow GM crops for commercial cultivation. This led to the
increase in the political conflict among supporters and detractors of GM crop
technology. Both the USA and the EU have explicitly established either product-
based or process-based regulatory approaches. But in India, the regulation is still
evolving. In that respect, this article highlights some of the existing regulatory
loopholes and kinds of confusions that prevail in Indian regulatory system.
GM technology, Bt cotton, regulatory approach, biotechnology, process-based
approach, product-based approach, Environmental Protection Act
The politics of genetically modified (GM) technology is a controversial and
contested debate. In India, various policy coalitions have come into shape either
supporting or opposing the technology, and thus exacerbated the political con-
flict around it (Navneet, 2014, 2018). The technology was approved for the
Indian Journal of Public
65(4) 869–884, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119872356
1 Independent Researcher, Gaya, Bihar India.
Corresponding author:
Asheesh Navneet, Independent Researcher, Gaya, Bihar 823003, India.
870 Indian Journal of Public Administration 65(4)
commercial cultivation in India in the year 2002 with the hope that it would help
the Indian farmers in increasing their agricultural yield. Biotechnology in this
regard emerged as ‘a new sunrise industry, one that could be at the forefront of an
economic transformation’ (Scoones, 2006), as GM technology was its important
The GM technology can also be referred to as recombinant DNA (rDNA)
technology or gene-splicing technology. GM crops are different from their con-
ventional counterparts in the sense that they contain a specific gene or set of
genes that have been artificially inserted instead of the plant or crop acquiring
them through pollination. Therefore, with the adoption of GM technology, sci-
entists can now transfer the gene of a particular quality of one organism into
another. The technology was first developed in the 1970s in the USA (Nestmann,
Copeland, & Hlywka, 2002).
However, when these new GM crops were introduced into the European
markets, a whole range of problematic issues concerned with health and environ-
ment arose. In India, apart from health and environment as problematic issues,
others related to ownership rights have also been raised. Unlike before, farmers
cannot generate GM crops by themselves and they have to become increasingly
dependent on corporate sectors to get new GM seeds for the next season. Farmers
have been cultivating Bt cotton for a decade in India. With a decade-long experi-
ence, supporters and detractors of GM crop technology have been engaged in
building two different and contrasting narratives. Supporters have been showing
the data of immense increase in cotton production in the country with the adoption
of Bt cotton seeds by farmers. They have been arguing that Bt cotton seeds have
helped farmers in reducing the use of chemical pesticides and thus saved them the
money, which they used to spend on buying costly pesticides. It was not the Indian
government which approved the Bt cotton initially. Farmers had started cultivat-
ing them illegally.1 Supporters have been arguing that since the benefits from
Bt cotton cultivation were so impressive and apparent, the government could not
do much to stop it and was compelled to fall in line by approving its commercial
cultivation. According to them, farmers themselves chose the higher quality of Bt
cotton seeds over the conventional ones.
However, detractors have drawn a contrasting picture on Bt cotton cultiva-
tion. They have argued that it has damaged the environment and the biodiver-
sity of cotton crops. The private companies have flooded the markets with Bt
cotton seeds because of which other hybrid and indigenous varieties have become
extinct in places like Maharashtra and Telangana. The detractors have been alleg-
ing that Bt cotton seeds have not helped farmers in increasing the yield; rather,
with their adoption, farmers have gone into debt and are committing suicides in
increasing number. They have also alleged that animals have fallen sick and also
died in some instances after feeding on Bt cotton plants.
According to Scoones (2006), there lies a complex reality behind easy nar-
ratives about science and technology policy. Navneet (2014, 2018) has shown
through the advocacy coalition framework theory how the stakeholders like
farmers, scientists (including agricultural, biotechnology and environment), eco-
nomists and activists, either supporting or opposing the use of GM technology

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