The GMO debate: Is law the answer to effectively regulate GM crops in India?

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This blog is by Subhashree Panda, LLM (Environmental Law and Sustainable Development)

Agriculture, the largest source of livelihoods for India, is plagued by several problems such as small and fragmented land-holdings, use of poor quality seeds, indiscriminate use of biocides causing environmental pollution, areas affected by salinity, alkalinity, water-logging due to lack of irrigation and inadequate storage facilities depriving farmers of their legitimate income.[1]

As a solution to overcome the persistent problem of food insecurity, India is promoting the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crops that offer many opportunities. These opportunities range from promoting sustainable agriculture as they may be able to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, reducing the use of pesticides, decreasing carbon-dioxide emissions, conserving soil moisture.[2] However, after the introduction of Bt-cotton in 2002 which is an insect-resistant transgenic crop,[3] there has been a lot of controversy in India surrounding its performance and impact on the environment and biodiversity. According to the critics, GM crops fail to reduce the need for pesticides, and mixtures of varieties being sold to farmers in the name of standardized seeds often result in uneven crop production and low yields.[4] Despite such controversy, several Indian seed companies and public sector research institutions are developing GM crops  (about 85 plant species), mainly for pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, abiotic stress tolerance (e.g. drought, salinity and soil nutrient), nutritional enhancement, and nutritional, medicinal or metabolic phenotypes.[5]

In India, even prior to joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the patentability and the scope of protection to be afforded to GM crops have been controversial.[6] Since joining the WTO, India has amended its Patents Act (in 1999, 2002 and 2005) to comply with the obligations set out in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. In addition, intellectual property rights in relation to plant varieties, including transgenic varieties, are the subject matter of protection under the provisions of the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act, 2001. These two laws play a crucial role in regulating the patentability and the use of GM crops in India.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, the Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms, GE organisms or cells 1989, Drugs and Cosmetic Rule 1988, Biological Diversity Act, Plant Quarantine Order 2003 and Directorate General of Foreign Trade Notification relating to inclusion of GM trade policy in foreign trade policy (2006-2009), the Seed Order 1983, the Seed Policy 2002, the Patent Act 1970 are also applicable for activities relating to GM crops in India. However, the Environmental Protection Act, Consumer Protection Act 1986 and Food Safety and Standard Act 2006 lack coherence and fail to apply the precautionary principle.[7] There is a lack of transparency and little or no public involvement in the governance process regarding agriculture and manufacture of GM crops. In addition, labelling and traceability provisions regulating GM crops are weak. For example, the recent draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations 2018 seeks to make labelling of GM food mandatory.[8] However, the criteria for exemption from labelling of food containing GM ingredients remain lax.[9]

India as a powerful developing country has attempted to domesticate global obligations in ways which conform to its domestic priorities.[10] There is no doubt that agricultural biotechnology must give farmers and local community adequate information and a meaningful opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their health, their livelihoods, and their natural resources. It is still possible to promote transparency and include strong labelling and traceability provisions in the 2018 Draft Regulation. Such integration of the precautionary principle in GMO laws will help to strengthen risk assessment procedure and monitoring in the biosafety regime.


[1] Puja Mondal, ’10 Major Agricultural Problems of India And Their Possible Solutions’ (Your Article Library) <http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/agriculture/10-major-agricultural-problems-of-india-and-their-possible-solutions/20988>

[2] Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot, ‘Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2015: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions (2017) 8 GM Crops & Food 117; David Zilberman, Tim G. Holland and Itai Trilnick, ‘Agricultural GMOs—What We Know and Where Scientists Disagree’ (2018)10 Sustainability 1514.

[3] K.S Jayaraman, ‘India Investigates Bt Cotton Claims’ (Nature, 2012) <https://www.nature.com/news/india-investigates-bt-cotton-claims-1.10015>.

[4] Suman Sahai, ‘What Is Wrong with Bt Cotton’ (Iatp.org)

<https://www.iatp.org/sites/default/files/What_Is_Wrong_With_Bt_Cotton.htm>

[5] ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Annual’ (Gain.fas.usda.gov,2017)

<https://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Agricultural%20Biotechnology%20Annual_New%20Delhi_India_11-28-2017.pdf>

[6] Rajdeep Banerjee and Joyeeta Banerjee, ‘The Future of Genetically Modified Crops in India | Forbes India Blog’ (Forbes India, 2018) <http://www.forbesindia.com/blog/economy-policy/the-future-of-genetically-modified-crops-in-india/>

[7] K. K. Tripathi, ‘Genetically Modified Organisms: Concerns and biosafety issues’ (2002)15 The national medical journal of India 187.

[8] ‘FSSAI Drafts New Labelling and Display Regulations 2018 – Food Safety Helpline’ (Food Safety Helpline, 2018) <https://foodsafetyhelpline.com/2018/04/fssai-drafts-new-labelling-and-display-regulations-2018/>

[9] A. S. Bawa and K. R. Anilakumar, ‘Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns-a review’ (2013)50 Journal of Food Science and Technology 1035.

[10] Peter Newell, ‘Lost in Translation? Domesticating Global Policy on Genetically Modified Organisms: Comparing India and China’ (2008) 22 Global Society 115.

Insights from the UK’s Implementation of Key Anti-Money Laundering Obligations

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Blog written by Samantha Bourton, Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol.

Photo: Samantha Bourton

Money laundering refers to the process used by criminals to conceal or disguise the profits of their illegal activities and is known to have devastating effects on society, national security, the economy and the integrity of financial institutions. This is because money laundering potentially enables criminals, such as drug traffickers, terrorists, and tax evaders, to remain undetected and to channel their profits into further illegal activities. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 2-5% of global GDP is laundered each year, while the National Crime Agency estimates that hundreds of billions of pounds are laundered annually in the UK alone. Accordingly, an international legal framework has been developed to combat this financial crime, with almost all countries globally committed to implementing the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations on Combatting Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism.

The EU has implemented the Recommendations via a series of directives and has introduced its own measures to combat money laundering in the wake of the Panama Papers and recent terrorist attacks in Europe. One of the main innovations of the EU directives is the requirement for Member States to set up registers of the beneficial owners of legal entities and trusts. The fifth EU anti-money laundering Directive requires the information contained in the register of legal entities to be available to the public, while the register of trusts should be available to law enforcement authorities and those who can demonstrate a legitimate interest in the information. The aim of such registers is to reveal the identities of those who use companies to launder money and carry out illegal activities.

On Friday 29th November, I delivered a paper titled ‘Insights from the United Kingdom’s Implementation of Key Anti-Money Laundering Obligations’ at the CFE Tax Advisers 12th European Conference on the Tax Advisers’ Professional Affairs in Paris. The Conference aimed to examine the impact of the fifth European Union (EU) Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which Member States were required to transpose by the 10th January 2020. The speakers included representatives from the CFE, OECD, and the BASEL Institute on Governance, as well as legal practitioners and academics from several Member States.

My paper examined the UK’s implementation of some of the key obligations contained in the 4th and 5th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directives, including the inclusion of tax evasion as a predicate, or underlying, offence to money laundering and the introduction of beneficial ownership registers. The paper focused on the UK as a case study, as these measures were part of its legal framework long before they became an obligation within the EU; tax evasion has been a predicate offence to laundering in the UK since 1993 and the UK established the first publicly accessible beneficial ownership register in the G20, the People with Significant Control (PSC) Register.

The paper highlighted the benefits generated by these developments in the UK. Under the anti-money laundering legal framework, professionals in the regulated sector are required to submit reports, known as suspicious activity reports (SARs), to the National Crime Agency when they know or suspect that a client is engaged in money laundering. With the inclusion of tax evasion as a predicate offence to laundering, in the UK, professionals are required to submit SARs when they know or suspect that their clients are engaged in tax offences. This has led to a significant recovery of revenue, with the intelligence generated by the reports supporting the collection of over £40.2million in tax revenue from civil enquiries in 2018-19. The paper also highlighted research undertaken by the NGO Global Witness on the benefits of the UK’s PSC Register in detecting and preventing criminal activity. For example, Global Witness found that there has been an 80% reduction in the rate of incorporation of Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) since SLPs have been subject to beneficial ownership requirements. SLPs are often associated with financial crime and were used in the Russian and Azerbaijani Laundromats.

However, the paper also cautioned against the implementation of these measures without appropriate resources devoted to their enforcement, or guidance provided on their operation. The information contained in the UK’s PSC register is not currently verified, leading to the inclusion of inaccurate and misleading information. This has caused some law enforcement authorities in the UK to refrain from using the register in investigations, effectively defeating its objective. In addition, the paper identified the difficulties professionals face in complying with the obligation to submit SARs for tax offences in the UK and stressed how these problems are likely to be exacerbated when these obligations are imposed at a European level.

I concluded the paper by recommending that the EU should define tax evasion for the purposes of the EU anti-money laundering directives and should provide further guidance on how Member States should verify the information contained in beneficial ownership registers.

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

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15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

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Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.

Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

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