SC seeks fresh report on GM crops
The Supreme Court Friday referred back to the technical expert committee its interim report on genetically modified crops all objections from the central government and industry, and sought a final report within six weeks.
The central government Friday declined to accept the Supreme Court's suggestion to have renowned agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan on the technical expert committee (TEC) on genetically modified crops.
In the face of apparent reluctance on the part of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to the court's suggestion to have Swaminathan on the TEC, the apex court bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhayay appointed another eminent scientist R.S. Paroda to the committee in place of V.L. Chopra. Chopra had earlier served as head of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He wanted to opt out of the committee on health grounds.
The TEC at present has five eminent scientists from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity and nutrition science.
It submitted an interim report Oct 7 as directed by the court.
By court's order, a sixth scientist in plant genetics has been added to the committee.
While directing the TEC to consider all the objections and file its report, the court observed: "We have to strike a balance between research and development in agriculture in the country."
At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Vahanvati told the court that the centre was rejecting the TEC's interim report and had filed an affidavit giving reasons for its disagreement with the committee's findings.
The AG took the court through the operative portions of the 60-page affidavit that recorded the central government's reservations.
Senior counsel K.K.Venugopal, Harish Salve, Ranjit Kumar and others representing industry too opposed the interim report of the TEC.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues drew the court's attention to the fact that the affidavit rejecting the TEC's interim report was filed by the Department of Agriculture, whereas earlier responses from the government in the GM crops case came from the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
At this, Attorney General Vahanvati told the court that it was a composite affidavit of the centre, and even the MoEF was involved in its drafting.
Prashant Bhushan assailed the centre's affidavit, poiting out that the 30-member parliamentary committee too had expressed serious reservations on GM crops.
He told the court that the findings of the parliamentary committee could not be ignored by the government.
He said all the stakeholders, including the Department of Agriculture and the MoEF, had deposed before the committee and said that going ahead with GM crops would have serious consequences.