The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Centre’s reaction to an application asking for a moratorium on releases of genetically altered GM mustard, even as the Centre said there would be no “precipitative actions” between now and November 10, the date of hearing.
The hearing was held at a critical point when the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) on October 25 approved the release of environmental concerns for GM Mustard. In the course of field tests, the GM Mustards were to be put in locations of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) at various places. A court of justices Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sudhanshu Dhulia while dealing with two cases of public interest (PIL) brought by the Gene Campaign and a group of activists headed by Aruna Rodrigues, questioned the Centre regarding its current position regarding GM Mustard. A petition was filed by Rodrigues along with others in the years 2016 and 2021 in opposition to open field trials and commercial release of herbicide-tolerant (HT) plants, such as GM mustard.
ASG (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati informed the court that the MoEFCC has taken an action on October 25, to allow the use of GM mustard. She also pointed out that the decision received approval from the expert government agency Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) on the 18th of October. In a court hearing, the court sought to know the status of the project, ASG Bhati said that the field trials would be conducted at different ICAR campuses throughout the nation.
Attorney Prashant Bhushan, representing Rodrigues The court was informed that a panel of experts established through the Supreme Court in 2012, known as the technical expert committee (TEC) had advised a complete prohibition on all HT crops. Bhushan stated that his request has to be heard prior to any field trial of these crops being granted. He quoted from the TEC report, which states, “The major concern with methods for HT is the over-dependence on the use of one or two herbicides that creates a strong pressure that leads to the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds and negative impacts in the long-term sustainability.” In its report, TEC declared these plants “unsustainable” as well as “unsustainable” suitable for India and noted that herbicides that are sprayed onto HT crops can cause cancer.
In the course of this hearing, the bench demanded the Centre to ensure that there is no “precipitative action” will be taken until when the court next hears. ASG Bhati assured the court that this was the case and also requested time to address the petition filed by the petitioners, as the petition submitted in 2016 was not accessible on record.
The bench adjourned the case until November 10, permitting the Centre to submit its response. Given the categorical declaration given by the law enforcement officer the court could not adopt any decision directing the status in the meantime.
GMOs are a topic that has been attracting the attention of judges since 2004. (GMOs) is attracting in the eyes of the highest court since 2004, when the first PIL filed by the Gene Campaign came to court. It was, followed by petitions filed by Rodrigues along with others, who contacted to the courts in. The petitions demanded transparency regarding the outcomes of field tests that were conducted on GM crops and demanded a thorough and robust biosafety program be put in the hands of GEAC prior to the granting of approval to any GMO.
According to Rodrigues’s research, more than 25 countries have been banned from using GMOs which include France, Germany, Switzerland and Russia, and Russia, while significant restrictions regarding GMOs are in place in more than 60 countries. The application required an investigation into the process of approval for GMOs.