CSA India Press Release: SC maintains Sept 22 stay on further GM-crop field trials
SUPREME COURT DOES NOT LIFT SEPTEMBER 22nd STAY ON FURTHER FIELD TRIAL APPROVALS
Allows Delhi University To Go Ahead With Planting Of GM Mustard Until The Petitioner Responds To The Impleadment Application
October 13, 2006, New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India today allowed the Delhi University to plant its GM Mustard seeds for limited field trials, while giving two weeks' time to the GMOs-PIL petitioners to respond to the University's impleadment application. Without lifting last month's stay on further approvals on GM crop field trials by the GEAC, the Supreme Court allowed the Delhi University to go ahead with the GM mustard field trials on the basis that the Court would hear the matter again in five weeks' time and on the assurance provided by Delhi University that they would uproot the crop in case the Court orders them to do so, after hearing the petitioner's response.
Meanwhile, the Government has asked the Court to give them another couple of days to respond to the main petition in the PIL filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others. When the respondents objected to the cooption of five independent experts recommended by the petitioners into the GEAC, the Court asked the Government to put its objections on record, to suggest any other names from the government's side as well as enquire whether the proposed experts are being/have been funded directly or indirectly by the biotech companies. By these pronouncements, the Court has indicated clearly that it has taken into cognizance the deep conflict of interest evident in the current regulatory regime in the country.
It has to be seen whether members of various regulatory bodies like GEAC and RCGM, who clearly reflect such conflict of interest, would now resign from such bodies by themselves.
The unfolding of the case so far clearly indicates that the Court has taken on board the main arguments of the petition which include that the biosafety protocols in the country – by design as well as enforcement – are questionable and would pose serious threat to the human health and environment of the country, that the GM crop applicants do not follow protocols, that there is no independent research conducted, no independent review of the results obtained by crop developers, that data is not put out in the public domain for expert scrutiny and so on.
The Petition mainly argues that no field trials should be allowed without comprehensive, scientific, reliable, transparent biosafety testing as asked for by the petitioners, including to test for the inherent dangers of the genetic engineering process itself. The current practice in India is to allow field trials to precede such rigorous biosafety testing which inevitably leads to irreversible contamination. This is compounded by absent or lax monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
Further, the PIL also showcased the inherent conflict of interest evident in the constitution of regulatory authorities. As reports have shown in the recent past, senior office-bearers and members of the GEAC are also part of industry-promoted bodies or are crop developers themselves in their personal or institutional capacities. Many of the GEAC members are ex-officio members from various departments and institutions with very little time or expertise to contribute to the decision-making processes related to GMOs.
For more information, contact: Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India at:
-- Kavitha Kuruganti Centre for Sustainable Agriculture 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka Secunderabad 500 017