GENE CAMPAIGN FILES WRIT PETITION IN SUPREME COURT AGAINST DEREGULATING IMPORT OF GM FOODS
Gene Campaign has filed a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution before the Supreme Court challenging the Notification dated 23rd August, 2007 issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests by which in purported exercise of powers under Rule 20 of the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989 (herein after referred to as the Rules of 1989), framed in exercise of powers conferred by Sections 6, 8 and 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the occupier of the processed food derived from living modified organisms as given in the table of the said Notification has been exempted with effect from 11th September, 2007.
The exempted processed food as given in the Table are as follows: -
Processed food items derived from living modified organisms
Rule from which exempted
Food stuffs, ingredients in food stuffs and additives including processing aids derived from Living Modified Organisms where the end product is not a Living Modified Organisms.
In the Writ Petition, Gene Campaign has submitted that the said Notification is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution (guaranteeing Right to Life and Right to Equality) besides being ultra-vires the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act and also the Rules of 1989 under which the said exemption is being granted.
The exemption that has been granted in favour of foods derived from living modified organisms shall have serious adverse impact on the public health and the environment; the exemption, which has been granted, suffers from non-application of mind besides being arbitrary, unreasonable, unguided and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Dr. Suman Sahai, President of Gene Campaign has referred in the Writ Petition, to various studies by which it is well-established that Genetically Modified (GM) foods can have adverse and serious impacts on health. A partial list of such scientific studies was submitted.
The Writ Petition has challenged Rule 20 under which exemption has been granted as well as the Notification dated 23.8.2007 on the grounds that: -
a) Power of exemption under rule 20 is unguided and uncanalised and, therefore, likely to be abused. Rule 20 is, therefore, ultra-vires the Constitution, Environment Protection Act and Rules of 1989.
b) No exemption can be granted under Rule 20 to the foods mentioned in Rule 11 of the Rules of 1989 for the reason that foodstuffs are directly consumed and may have direct and immediate impact on human health.
c) The effect of exemption under Rule 20 is that practically all the /safeguards/guidelines to restrict or regulate the entry of GM foods and foods derived from GMOs are taken away and, therefore, such exemption will expose the consumer to a range of foods of questionable safety and with a high potential for harm, which could translate into serious harm to the health and environment, in violation of Art. 21 of the Constitution.
d) There is growing scientific evidence that GM foods can have adverse and debilitating impacts on human health (and environment). Allowing their use as food without exercising proper control and stringent testing will endanger public health.
e) The impugned notification granting exemption has not provided any reports or scientific data to support the view that no harm to human health is known from the use of GM foods, hence the scientific evidence of harm to human health has not been contested , therefore tacitly admitted.
f) The exemption granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests , therefore, suffers from non-application of mind; it is arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution.
The Writ Petition filed by Gene Campaign in addition states that the exemption does not provide for labeling of foodstuffs derived from GMOs. This violates not only the rights of the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act but also the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA), 1954 and the Food Standards Act, 2006. The Writ Petition has sought striking down of the Notification dated 23.8.2007.