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Supreme Court questions Centre on GM mustard

A farmer walks through a mustard field at a village on the outskirts of Amritsar.  File

A farmer walks through a mustard field at a village on the outskirts of Amritsar. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on January 11 questioned the government on whether the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had considered the reports of the court-appointed Technical Experts Committee (TEC) on the biosafety of transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 before approving it for environmental release.

Appearing before a Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Sanjay Karol, Attorney General R. Venkataramani, for the Centre, said the GEAC was a statutory body and the committee had examined relevant scientific data before giving the go-ahead for the environmental release.

“The reason why we are asking this is because the GEAC was not working in a vacuum… These are reports included a dissenting note by RS Paroda (agricultural scientist) submitted to the court on the issue. Will these reports be consigned to the record room?” Justice Nagarathna asked.

Transparent Framework

Mr. Venkataramani presented that a detailed analysis of the TEC’s recommendations and steps taken by the Centre reveal that the regulatory regime had been further strengthened since 2012 to ensure that a transparent and science-based framework was in place for environmental risk assessment of GM crops.

He said the conditional approval granted for environmental release of GM mustard was an example of effective implementation of the strengthened regulatory framework.

“Even for grant of conditional approval for environmental release, a rigorous risk analysis approach was taken,” Mr. Venkataramani said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, had argued that the regulatory system under the GEAC was “horrendous” and riddled with conflict of interest.

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