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SC issues notice on illegal planting of non-approved GM crops

New Delhi

06-January-2020

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice in the matter of illegal planting of non-approved Genetically Modified (GM) crops (Bt. Brinjal, HT. Bt. Cotton, etc) by Shetkari Sangathan, a union of farmers, and others.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodriges, before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra sought a moratorium on the environmental release of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the absence of -- (a) comprehensive, transparent, and rigorous bio-safety protocols in the public domain; (b) bio-safety studies conducted by independent expert bodies, the results of which are made available in the public domain; and (c) GMOs, given the irreversible impacts of GMO contamination, are a fitting case for the application of the Precautionary Principle.

The application cited the illegal planting of unapproved Bt. Brinjal and herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton which is also a GMO across various states." Genetic contamination is irreparable and irreversible. It is also confirmed that there can be no co-existence between GMOs and Non-GMOs in agriculture and contamination has been confirmed even as a result of single field trials", said the plea.

The plea contended that it is apparent that the regulatory apparatus designed to ensure that GMOs are not released into the environment, except after stringent protocols of risk assessment applied rigorously and sequentially, has ignominiously collapsed. This is evident through the wholesale illegal cultivation of unapproved GMOs in the country.

"Taking advantage of the collapse of the regulatory regime miscreant organisations and individuals are inciting and misleading farmers, across several states, who may not be aware of the gravity of their action, to plant Bt Brinjal, HT (RR) cotton, and HT Bt cotton", said the plea citing the illegal planting of Bt. Brinjal in Haryana, which was identified in April 2019.

The plea contended that a few marginal miscreant organizations are instigating farmers to plant GM Brinjal and other unapproved GM crops while being fully aware that said action would be illegal.

"One such organisation is the Shetkari Sangathan that carried out its public threat to plant unapproved and illegal Bt Brinjal and Herbicide Tolerant Cotton (HTBt Cotton) in Maharashtra in the presence of police personnel", said the plea.

The plea also cited the recommendation of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) constituted by the apex court.

"The 5-member TEC Reports' recommendations are required to be implemented to safeguard India. In the meanwhile, the status quo must be maintained with an interim injunction on the environmental release of any GMO whether in open field trials/plantings, and including the commercial approval of any GMO crop", said the plea.

The apex court said it will hear the recommendations of TEC, and asked its experts to be present in court on the next date of hearing.

"Direct Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee to lay down an urgent comprehensive 'Contamination Protocol' with regard to brinjal as a priority, laying down measures to be taken in case of contamination and the procedures required to eradicate any contamination, to safeguard our brinjal foundation seed stock and genetic diversity", said the plea.IANS