Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NEWS: Chief Justice HL Dattu calls GM crops dangerous global experiment

ET Bureau Mar 16, 2015, 04.35AM IST

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice HL Dattu has called for exercising caution while deciding on the future course of action on genetically modified (GM) crops. Speaking at an international conference on environmental issues, he described GM crops as "harmful for human consumption but also for environment".

The Supreme Court is hearing a long-pending public interest litigation opposing GM crops in India. Last year, a bench headed by Justice Dattu refused to give an interim moratorium on field trials of GM crops, saying that all reports had to be discussed.
"Once released, the GM crops cannot be recalled. GM is a dangerous global experiment," the CJI told the conference, 'Global Environment Issues', on Saturday. The two-day event was organised by the National Green Tribunal, in association with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Indian Law Institute and Ficci.

The comments were part of the Chief Justice's elaboration on how environmental protection requires a legal language which is capable of incorporating technical specifications while balancing socio-economic rights as well as protecting bio-diversity. "Indian judiciary", he said is "striving hard to hold at bay the demons of environmental degradation from swallowing its citizenry".

His comments on GM crops come in the backdrop of a recent decision by the Maharashtra government to allow five strains of genetically modified crops for field trials. In July, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the statutory body charged with evaluating and permitting field trials and commercial introduction of transgenic crops, had given the go-ahead for field trials for 15 crops. At a recent meeting, the GEAC took up also another clutch of proposals for field trials.
While the statutory body can give its approval, field trials can go ahead only after the state government concerned gives a no-objection certificate. States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh have denied permission for field trials of genetically modified crops.

The environment ministry, which houses the GEAC, had said that there was no ban on field trials, by either the government or the Supreme Court.

The ruling BJP's position on GM crops has been that there is a need for proper scientific assessment of the impact of these crops on human health, environment, and agriculture. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has maintained that the field trials for GM crops are part of this assessment effort. It is argued that the field trials will generate bio-safety data, and all precautions would be taken to confine the trials.

On the PIL, a technical committee, comprising biotechnology experts and scientists appointed by the court, had called for an indefinite moratorium on field trials till the deficiencies in the regulatory and safety systems are effectively addressed. A separate report by RS Paroda, former director-general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, who had been inducted into the expert committee at the government's request, argues that field trials should be allowed.

SOURCE : http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-03-16/news/60174760_1_field-trials-gm-crops-transgenic-crops

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