CSA-India Press Release: SC orders 2 to 3 week halt of GM field trial permissions Print E-mail

PRESS RELEASE: September 22, 2006

STOP FIELD TRIAL PERMISSIONS : SC TO GEAC
"Supreme Court issues notices to Government of India and asks GEAC to stop any permissions to field trials until the next hearing"

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New Delhi, September 22, 2006: In the Public Interest Litigation filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others in the Supreme Court on the issue of Genetically Modified foods and crops, the Court today issued notices to the Government of India to respond to the petition which seeks a complete moratorium on environmental releases of GMOs and set a deadline of two weeks for the same.
 
In an order of signficance to the fate of Bt Brinjal and the impending large scale field trials of the crop, the Court also instructed the GEAC that no field trials should be allowed till the next hearing on October 13 th 2006. Expressing displeasure over the constitution of the GEAC, the Court also instructed the GEAC to induct some independent experts into the Committee.
 
This Court order comes in the wake of the GEAC setting up an Expert Committee under Dr Deepak Penthal, to evaluate the feedback received from public on Bt Brinjal. This Committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting on 25 th September in Delhi. Civil society groups have pointed out that the constitution of this Expert Committee is highly questionable since several GM crop promoters themselves are part of the Committee  leading to high conflict of interest.
 
This development from the Supreme Court follows earlier interim orders on 1st May 2006 in this case, stopping the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation [RCGM] under the DBT from giving permissions for field trials and reiterating that only GEAC is authorized to allow field trials. At that time, the Court had directed that "till further orders, field trials of genetically modified organisms shall be conducted only with the approval of the GEAC".
 
Subsequent to these Orders in May 2006, the GEAC endorsed RCGM decisions and authorized permissions for limited field trials for several crops including on GM Rice, GM Okra, GM Brinjal etc., which are right now being conducted as open air, multi-locational trials, mostly in farmers' fields across different states of the country.  
 
For more information, contact:
 
1. Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India at:
--
Kavitha Kuruganti
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka
Secunderabad 500 017

Phone: +91-9393001550

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

 
ECONOMY

Stop giving approvals to field trials of GM crops: SC

NEW DELHI, SEPT 22:  In a landmark interim verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre not to go ahead with its proposed plan for approving field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

A bench, consisting of Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice CK Thakkar and Justice RV Ravindran, directed the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to give any further approval to the field trials of GM crop until the final judgement was passed on the writ petition by Aruna Rodrigues and other seeking a moratorium on GM crops.

 The counsel for the petitioner, Prashant Bhushan, told FE, “A rejoinder was filed on behalf of Aruna Rodrigues on August 1. This came up for hearing today and the apex court directed the government to reply to the rejoinder within two weeks.”

The Supreme Court also directed the GEAC to co-opt independent experts for deciding on GM crops.

The judgement has given a relief to NGOs and consumer organisations who were opposing the proposed field trials of the country’s first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal. GEAC had formed an in-house panel of experts, headed by Delhi University vice-chancellor Deepak Pental, to review the objections to the proposed Bt Brinjal field trials raised by independent scientists, NGOs and consumer groups. The panel is scheduled to meet on September 25.

The apex court’s judgement has also given some relief to a group of independent scientists who were opposed to the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal.

GEAC has already approved a number of field trials for new Bt cotton hybrid. It has also approved some Bt cotton hybrid for commercial cultivation in the current kharif season. As the court’s interim verdict is for restraining further approval of GM crops, the approved Bt cotton hybrid have escaped the purview of this order.

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 Saturday September 23, 2006

Court: withhold approval for genetically modified products

Legal Correspondent

But it will not stop field trials without knowing Government's stand

GMO seeds may pose health hazards, say petitioners The process will be a risky experiment in the country


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee not to give approval for genetically modified products until further orders.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran gave this direction on an application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others seeking a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major health hazards.

Counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged that the Government's policy was to give speedy clearance for genetically modified organisms (GOM) even before putting in place a mechanism to test their bio-safety value. He pleaded for stay on grant of fresh approvals and on all field trials of genetically modified crops.

Involve experts
The Bench said: "We are not inclined to direct stoppage of all field trials at this stage without [knowing] the stand of the respondents.

At the same time, we deem it appropriate to direct the GEAC to withhold the approvals until further directions are issued on hearing all concerned. The Government would also consider associating independent experts in the field with the GEAC." It directed that the matter be listed after two weeks.

In their public interest litigation, the petitioners said GMO seeds were a pest-resistant, high producing variety with the inherent drawback of passing on strands of pesticide to human body that could in future blow up into major health problems. The hazards included new allergies, greatly increased resistance to antibiotics, and severe toxicity to humans, animals and micro-organisms, resulting in a serious import on human health, and loss of wildlife and biodiversity.

In a fresh application, they said genetic engineering, if allowed unchecked, would change the molecular structure of the world's food.