New Delhi: In order to improve transparency in the trials of genetically modified, or GM, crops, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Indian government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Commitee, or GEAC, to post data on its website on the toxicity and allergic potential of GM plant varieties undergoing trial.
The apex court’s order came after it heard a petition filed by activist Aruna Rodrigues in 2005 seeking a ban on GM crops, which the court heard simultaneously with a similar petition filed by Gene Campaign, a not-for-profit organization.
The petitioners have been urging transparency in tests and approvals for GM crop trials, in addition to concrete guidelines, after the Supreme Court lifted an eight-month ban on field trials of GM foodcrops in September last year.
GEAC, an agency of the ministry of environment and forests, approves, reviews, monitors and investigates activities involving hazardous micro-organisms and recombinants besides GM organisms and products.
Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a lobby group for organic farmers, said the information currently available in the public domain on the bio-safety of GM crops under trial is “insufficient”. “The regulators have been saying they have information on their websites but these are only summaries. We welcome this order. This data should now be subjected to rigorous analysis by others.”
A division bench led by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan also asked GEAC to examine the distance between crops and the level of detection of contamination to other crops in the trials conducted, besides submitting the detailed minutes of its last meeting. The court will hear the matter again in the second week of August.