Supreme Court puts environmental release of GM mustard on hold

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The Coalition of GM Free India, an informal network of organiations and individuals campaigning to keep India GM-Free, had specifically requested the Supreme Court to hear the matter November 3

The Supreme Court November 3, 2022 put a status quo on planting genetically modified (GM) mustard and conducting its trials and demonstrations in India. The decision comes days after the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a body of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave a green nod to environmental clearance for GM mustard.

The Centre had taken the decision after the GEAC, in a meeting October 18, recommended the environmental release of the seed for trials, demonstrations and seed productions.

Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) is a hybrid seed variety that has stirred a storm between scientists, farmers and activists over its commercialisation. It is the first GM crop to be commercially released and grown by farmers in India.

The Coalition of GM Free India, an informal network of organisations and individuals campaigning and advocating to keep India GM-Free, had opposed the move claiming it to be unscientific and alleged that no biosafety protocols were followed in the process.

The Supreme Court already had pending cases on the matter of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in general and GM mustard in particular that the activists had filed as public interest litigations.

The anti-GM group knocked the doors of the Supreme Court. They requested the court on November 2 to list the matter for November 3, which the SC granted.

Kavitha Kurunganti, an activist who has been at the forefront of anti-GM protests, said, “The SC heard the matter and issued a status quo on the same. According to the directives, no seeds can be planted until November 10 when another hearing is scheduled.”

Kurungati said the group would continue to protest against the move made by the central government. “Government agencies have flouted laws at various levels including understanding the effect of GM mustard on honey bees and other pollinators and by passed biosafety protocols,” she said.

The Coalition of GM Free India has also alleged that no trials were conducted and that the GMO was also changed after the approval of the tests, making it a flawed process.

Deepak Pental, former vice chancellor of Delhi University who conceived GM mustard, alleged to Down To Earth, “The SC has issued a status quo that has put the development on hold. The apex court has always sided with the anti-GM lobby. However, a case will be made in the next hearing where the facts of the matter will be presented to convince the court that all protocols and tests have been followed with due diligence.”

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