GM mustard row: Will take policy decision on crop rollout in September, Centre tells Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will take a decision in a month-and-a-half on whether to allow the commercial rollout of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop in the country.

A bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud told Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha that if the government takes a decision in favour of GM mustard crop, then the court would like to hear the petition challenging the commercial release.

The bench also said that as the mustard sowing season begins in the month of October, any decision favouring the rollout will come into effect after the court examines it and fixed the matter for hearing in the second week of September.

 GM mustard row: Will take policy decision on crop rollout in September, Centre tells Supreme Court

Representational image. Reuters

Earlier the bench had granted time to the Centre to apprise it as to by when it will take a "well-informed and well-intentioned" policy decision on the rollout.

The apex court had on 17 October, 2016 extended the stay on the commercial release of GM mustard crop until further orders. The court had restrained the commercial release of the crop for ten days on 7 October, 2016.

The court had asked the Centre to seek public opinion on such seeds before releasing it for cultivation purpose, even as government approval is awaited.

Mustard is one of India's most important winter crops which is sown between mid-October and late November. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, alleged that the government was sowing the seeds in various fields and said the bio-safety dossier has to be put on the website, which has not been done yet.

Alleging that field trials were being carried out without doing relevant tests, he had sought a 10-year moratorium on them. Bhushan said a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report has pointed out that the entire regulatory system was in shambles and a 10-year moratorium should be given.

Rodrigues had filed the plea seeking a stay on the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop and prohibition of its open field trials.

He had also urged the court to prohibit open field trials and commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants as recommended by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC)

The commercial release of the GM mustard crop has been debated for a while now.

Medical experts have urged the government to reject the GM mustard crop roll-out due it its harmful effects. Representing the medical fraternity in India, Dr. Mira Shiva has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the crop was a danger for everyone involved: cultivators, agricultural workers and consumers. The expert also rejected the roll-out since there are no demonstrable benefits to GM mustard.

If introduced in the market, the GM mustard will be the first transgenic food crop in India. In the non-food category, Bt cotton is the only crop and it was introduced in India in 2002 by the BJP-led government.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2017 13:12:45 IST