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GM field trials: SC refuses to pass interim order

The court said it will not go into the ‘politics’ behind government’s decision to either allow or restrict field trials.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
April 23, 2014 1:45:07 am

The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed disinclination to issue an interim order on moratorium on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

A bench led by Justice H L Dattu said it did not want to consider a plea for an interim restraint order at this stage and would prefer to rather hear the case at length and decide it once and for all.

The court also said it will not go into the “politics” behind the government’s decision to either allow or restrict field trials. “We will go only by the reports of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), appointed by us, and other reports by the parliamentary panel,” it said.

Notably, soon after Environment and Forests Minister Veerappa Moily reversed his predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan’s stance and permitted field trials of GM crops, the Centre approached the court to let them go ahead with it in the interest of India’s science and economy. The affidavit by the Agriculture Ministry had junked the majority opinion by the court-appointed TEC in July 2013 for an indefinite moratorium on field trials until the Centre had tightened its regulatory mechanism. The committee had favoured trials only for research purposes, preferably in greenhouse.

However, the sixth member of the TEC, R S Paroda, had given a dissenting opinion in his report, submitted separately to the court.

On Tuesday, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing petitioners Aruna Rodriugues and ‘Gene Campaign’, requested the bench to discard Paroda’s report in view of his “conflict of interest”. He alleged that Paroda’s organisations received funds from biotech major Monsanto and its Indian associates for different programmes.

The bench said it could not junk Paroda’s report without giving him an opportunity to be heard. “We will take both the reports of the TEC and take a decision. We cannot throw out his report just like that. After all, it was the court’s decision to include him in the committee,” it said. The court will continue hearing on Wednesday.

Earlier, the government had criticised the majority opinion of the TEC, calling it an “unscientific approach”. The government had maintained any delay or stoppage will be a “blow to Indian Science”.

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