Lots more interesting coverage of what happened yesterday in India's Supreme Court, including a front page piece from The Hindu.
[Counsel Prashant Bhushan opposing continuance of the field trials] produced opinions given by three eminent professors saying the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements in the environment. They said that even at low levels the release of these organisms could prove toxic to the environment and the main areas required fuller study prior to the exposure of millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins. (item 1)
...advocate Prashant Bhushan, questioned the credentials of the independent members appointed by the government to the GEAC [India's apex GM regulatory body] and alleged that one of them was a partner to the commercial interests of a multinational GM seed firm. (item 3)
1.Impact of field trials sought by court - Indo-Asian News Service
2.Genetic panel to examine Delhi University field trials - The Hindu (front page)
3.SC concerned over risks of open field trials of GM seeds - Times of India
1.Impact of field trials on GM-mustard sought by court
Indo-Asian News Service, December 16 2006 http://www.rxpgnews.com/india/Impact-of-field-trials-on-GM-mustard-sought-by-court_8720.shtml
(IANS) New Delhi, Dec 15 - The Supreme Court Friday asked a committee to examine the impact of field trials being conducted by Delhi University on a genetically modified mustard variety following expert opinion that such trials were toxic and harmful.
On Sep 22, the apex court had restrained the committee - Genetic Engineering Approval Committee - - from giving fresh approvals to genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. Subsequently, Delhi University was allowed to carry out field trials of DMH-11 Mustard for research.
On Friday, a three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran asked the GEAC to examine the matter after counsel Prashant Bhushan opposed continuance of the field trials saying that the release of genetically modified organism/seeds even for research would have the potential of causing major health hazards once they were released into the environment.
Bhushan produced opinions given by three eminent professors saying the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements in the environment. They said that even at low levels the release of these organisms could prove toxic to the environment and the main areas required fuller study prior to the exposure of millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Counsel for Delhi University said that the university had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment due to the field trials. The bench therefore directed the GEAC to give its opinion before proceeding further in the matter and adjourned the proceedings to January 2007.
2.Genetic panel to examine Delhi University field trials
The Hindu, Dec 16 2006 (front page) http://www.hindu.com/2006/12/16/stories/2006121614560100.htm
Court order on expert opinion that the exercise involving genetically modified crop is a health hazard
*GEAC approval not obtained for test; opinion sought *Release of toxic elements hazardous, says petitioner
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to examine the impact of ongoing Delhi University field trials on genetically modified DMH-11 mustard variety in the light of expert opinion that such exercises are toxic and harmful.
The Court, which restrained field trials of genetically modified products with commercial implications, later permitted the University to sow seeds of the newly developed DMH-11 for academic research.
On September 22, the Court, acting on a petition from Aruna Rodrigues and three others, had restrained the GEAC from according fresh approvals for genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes.
The public interest litigation had sought a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major public health hazards.
On Friday a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran directed the GEAC to examine the matter after it was brought to the Court's notice that GEAC approval was not obtained for this field trial.
It asked the GEAC to give its opinion by the first week of January and directed that the case be listed for January.
Petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan said genetically modified organism/seeds would pose major health hazards once they were released into the environment even for research.
He cited opinions given by three eminent professors that the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements that, even at low levels, could prove harmful to the environment.
The main areas (relating to field trials) required a fuller study before exposing millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Appearing for the University, senior counsel P.P. Rao said it had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment by the field trials.
3.SC concerned over risks of open field trials of GM seeds
Times of India, 16 December 2006 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/India/SC_concerned_over_risks_of_open_field_trials_of_GM_seeds/articleshow/822947.cms
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Friday shared the public concern over the largescale ongoing field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds in India and their potential to corrupt traditional crops like rice, cotton, brinjal, tomato, cauliflower, wheat and okra.
However, it was cautious not to accede to petitioner Aruna Rodrigues' plea for a total ban on field trials till the statutory Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) gave the green signal to the outcome of laboratory safety tests on the GM seeds.
The issue on debate before a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran was the field trials of GM mustard seed ”” DMH-11 ”” being carried out by Delhi University. The court, while allowing continuance of the trial, had warned the university that it could be asked to uproot the plants if they were found to be ecologically dangerous.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan, questioned the credentials of the independent members appointed by the government to the GEAC and alleged that one of them was a partner to the commercial interests of a multinational GM seed firm.
This allegation soon turned into a finger-pointing exercise, with Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Saran questioning the credentials of the experts suggested by the petitioner for inclusion in GEAC. Not getting drawn into the seemingly unending trading of accusations, the Bench took note of the petitioner’s argument that DMH-11 seed contained genetic use restriction technology (GURT) and asked GEAC to submit a report on the safety aspect of the field trials being carried out by Delhi University.
It also asked GEAC to respond to the expert opinions cited by the petitioner, which unequivocally cautioned against use of GURT seeds in field trials. Saran contended that the green revolution which made India self-sufficient in foodgrains, was due to the genetically modified seeds and that GEAC has not allowed any GM seed for field trial which could have an adverse impact on ecology or traditional crops.