Referring to the suggestions made by expert panels for indefinite moratorium on open field trials unless shortcomings in the regulatory process are addressed, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government why such trials of GM crops should not be banned till the final disposal of case.
However, the apex court said that it was not inclined to ban trial in closed environment or isolated conditions. A bench headed by Justice HL Dattu said that “we have reports of responsible persons who occupy responsible positions. Don't you think there should be an interim order (against open field trials) till we hear this case?...After going though the parliamentary committee report, we felt representatives of people feel that way, then why not have an interim order?".
Responding to the PILs by Aruna Rodriugues and ‘Gene Campaign’ seeking a ban on reckless promotion of untested GM trials, additional solicitor general Paras Kuhad said all the recommendations of the expert committees are “virtually” in place and even the community of Indian and international scientists was in favour of allowing such field trials.
“We will set the clock at least 10 years back (if field trials are banned). Scientist won't conduct studies in adverse regimes,” he said, adding that any delay or stoppage of GM crop field trials will be a blow to Indian science and consequently, farmers and the economy as a whole will be the “biggest losers.”
The six-member technical expert committee, set up by the apex court, suggested indefinite moratorium on such trials unless shortcomings in the regulatory process were addressed.
However, one member gave a dissenting note.
Soon after, environment minister Veerappa Moily reversed his predecessor Jayanti Natarajan’s stance and permitted field trials of GM crops. The agriculture ministry junked a majority opinion by the court-appointed committee in July last year for an indefinite moratorium, calling this as an “unscientific approach.”
It further said that although the existing regulatory mechanism was dependable, they were open to all ideas of strengthening it further.