The central government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was likely to take a final decision on the commercial rollout of genetically modified (GM) mustard by September.
In view of the sowing season that commences in October, a bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said the challenge to the introduction of GM mustard would be heard before the rollout was allowed, in case the Centre decided to go ahead with it.
On 17 July, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had informed the court that the government was considering various aspects of the issue and was still to take a final decision.
The court has repeatedly told the Centre to take a well-informed and well-intentioned decision on the commercial rollout.
The court is hearing a batch of pleas led by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues, challenging the commercial rollout of GM mustard and open field trials, citing health risks.
Rodrigues also sought the court’s direction to constitute a commission of inquiry to submit a report on the field trials and application process for GM mustard.
She alleged that “various counts of fraud and regulatory collusion in field trials" of GM mustard crop conducted over the years in multiple locations have made its commercial release a risky proposition. She also cited the fact that the commercial release of Bt Brinjal was stopped after protests.
If GM mustard gets the green light from the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, it will become the first transgenic food crop to be commercially cultivated in India. Right now, only GM cotton is cultivated in the country.
The court will next hear the matter in September.