SC declines to restrain GM crops' field trials
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday declined to restrain the government from going ahead with the open field trials of the GM crops for the coming rabi season.
The government earlier resisted any move to restrain open field trials of GM crops, while pointing to a court-appointed committee's warning on possibly disastrous consequences of these crops.
An apex court bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya was told that a technical expert committee (TEC) appointed by it had pointed to the "possibility of contamination of non-GM food by the GM food".
"I don't think that it is possible for the court to postpone the sowing of the rabi crops," said Justice Swatanter Kumar.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, told the court that the annexure to the TEC report said that the field trials of the GM crops would cause an "irreversible contamination" of even the non-GM crops.
The court was told that the committee said that in India given the small farm plot size and relative lack of control in harvesting, storage and transport, it was likely that "such contamination would be high".
Giving the example of non-GM rice and GM rice, Bhushan said that if non-GM rice was contaminated by the GM rice then India would lose a Rs.14,000 crore rice market the world over.
"Just as Americans lost, we will lose European markets. This is a very very serious matter. This is why even the parliamentary committee too had voiced its concern over the GM crops," Bhushan told the court.
The court permitted various applications for impleadments after senior counsel KK Venugopal, who appeared for ABLE Associates of Biotechnology, a group of biotech led enterprises, told the court that "We are entitled to have our say" and point out "Where they (TEC) have gone wrong".
One of the counsel appearing for a government agency told the court that the open field trials would be carried out in a safe environment with all precautions and the GM crop would be burnt afterwards.
Justice Mukhopadhaya said: "Whether you burn it or don't burn it. We have to be careful. Contamination will not only be through the water but it can be through air."
While directing the listing of the matter till November 9, the court said that all the parties would exchange their responses by November 7.