SC seeks Centre’s response on plea against GM mustard rollout

New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking stay on the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop.

Mustard is India's most important winter crops, which is sown between mid-October and late November.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for activist Aruna Rodrigues, contended before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra that Centre had earlier assured the court that it would seek its permission before permitting the commercial roll-out of GM mustard.

Bhushan insisted that the report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), set up by the top court, indicated a regulatory system is not in place, therefore a moratorium of 10 years should be given.

The apex court asked the Centre and petitioner NGOs to bring on record scientific data to establish their claims. Also asking the TEC Chairman to be present in court on the next hearing, the court observed that these matters cannot be kept pending for long, and expressed its willingness to allocate a lengthy hearing next month.

Rodrigues had alleged field trials were being carried out without performing relevant tests, and she had sought a 10 year moratorium on them.

The Centre told the top court that it will soon decide on the necessary permission on the commercial roll-out of GM mustard. At this, the court had said it will have to look into the pleas challenging this decision.

Rodrigues urged the court to restrain authorities concerned from conducting open field trials and commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants in line with the recommendations made in the TEC report.

In October 2016, the apex court had extended the stay on the commercial release of GM mustard until further orders. The court had asked Centre to document public opinion on the GM crop cultivation.

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