SC seeks clarifications from Govt on GMO regulation

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 27 2009, 01:14am hrs
Indias apex court has sought clarifications from three Union ministries agriculture, department of biotechnology (under ministry of science and technology) and environment and forests about governments regulatory process for genetically modified (GM) crops and its implementation.

The special bench of the Supreme Court consisting of the Chief Justice, KG Balakrishnan, Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice JM Panchal on Thursday in the course of the hearing acted on two rejoinders to the petition filed by the Convenor of the Gene Campaign, Suman Sahai in September 26, 2008 calling for a direct review of all the approvals for field trials and commercialization of GM crops given by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and grant of moratorium on GM crop trials until proper regulatory processes were put in place.

The apex court also sought clarifications from US seed multinational, Monsantos Indian partner, Mahyco.

Gene Campaign had filed its original petition in 2004 and a year later on the similar lines a public interest litigation was jointly filed by Aruna Rodrigues, PV Satheesh and Rajeev Baruah. The Supreme Court has clubbed both these cases for hearing. The next hearing of the case is slated on April 29, 2009.

The counsel for Aruna Rodrigues and others, Prashant Bhushan said, The advocate appearing on behalf of the government assured that there are no immediate plans for commercialization of Bt brinjal. The crop is in the process of field trials.

The counsel for the Gene Campaign, Sanjay Parekh said : We had filed two rejoinders to our petition last year and the apex court acting on our rejoinders has sought clarifications from the Union ministries of agriculture and environment and forests and from the department of biotechnology (DBT).

The Convenor of Gene Campaign, Suman Sahai alleged that the field trials of Mahycos Bt rice in Jharkhand has violated all biosafety norms. There was a likelihood of genetic contamination of non-GM rice grown in the area. This was unfortunate as the eastern India alongwith Jharkhand was considered to be one of the centre of origin for rice, she said.

Indias approval of GM crops had also raised eyebrows in the countries of its export destination. Russia for instance had imposed a temporary ban on India rice and sought clarification whether GM rice was exported.