NOTE: The following is from Aruna Rodrigues, the chief petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that's been before India's Supreme Court. What she has to say is very different from the press reports based on briefings by India's GM regulator - the GEAC.
EXTRACT: ...the restricitions that the GEAC are bound up in, place the most severe conditions on them and open up a whole arena of action for farmers and civil society groups. If the Union of India and its Regulator, do not comply, they will face contempt of Court. It will be virtully impossible for them to carry out field trials given our small landholdings, with isolation distances of 200m.
GM WATCH COMMENT: This looks like very good news for farmers and exporters given India's shambolic record on field trials and the kind of economic impact from trials seen with the US rice industry.
Aruna Rodrigues: We still don't have the ORDER [from the Court] and may not have it till Monday; in which case it is important to give out the Order as we heard it along with the interpretation of that Order because what is being carried across the Country in the press is a host of contradictions and claims largely based on GEAC [India's GM regulator] press briefings.
Only the GM case was heard by the Supreme Court on the 8 May before the Chief Justice and two other Justices -- so it was a full day affair. This is the ORDER (as we heard it)
(a) 4 Bt cotton varieties which have already been approved (includes Bolgard II). The main point is that no NEW varieties of cotton will be allowed.
(b) Field trials that were approved between May and Sept. 2006 may continue. These pertain to a specifed list of vegetables and oilgrains. NO OTHERS.
They are subject to 3 conditions:
(a) Isolation distances will be increased to 200m around the test field
(b) A lead scientist will be named who will assume full responsibity for the field trial in all its aspects, most importantly for contamination
(c) The GEAC will specify a validated test protocol for contamination with a LOD (level of detection) of 0.01%.
(d) Toxicity & Allergenicty data for all GMOs that are released.
1. While there has been a relaxation in principle of the ORDER of the 22nd December, in point of fact the restricitions that the GEAC are bound up in, place the most severe conditions on them and open up a whole arena of action for farmers and civil society groups. If the Union of India and its Regulator, do not comply, they will face contempt of Court. It will be virtully impossible for them to carry out field trials given our small landholdings, with isolation distances of 200m.
2. It is also important to remember that the GEAC has still not complied with the ORDER of the Court of the 15th Feb which asked the Regulator to provide details about "what would be the biological implications of these tests". Thus, they must provide toxicity and allergenicity data under the still outstanding ORDER as well. Civil society will certainly ask for this to be put in the public domain i.e. the GEAC website, starting with Bt Brinjal and Bt cotton events.
3. The test protocol for contamination has to be announced before the commencement of the release of the GMO, whether cotton or anything else. This means genetic sequences of the GMOs must be disclosed. Civil society has only one objective, NO contamination is acceptable. Nor will we be bound by less than state-of-the-art testing facilities to test for contamination at the lowest possible level -- traceability levels. International labs will therefore be deployed by civil society for back up tests to ascertain whether farmers' fields and food have been contaminated.