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Apex Court Asks Centre If There Will Be Any Irreversible Consequence

New Delhi: Amid concerns over environmental contamination due to genetically mod ified crops, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre whether there was any compelling reason for the environmental release of GM mustard failing which the country will be doomed.

The top court said Indian farmers, unlike their western counterparts, are not literate and they do not understand about genes and mutations notwithstanding events like Krishi Melas’ and Krishi Darshan’ which is the ground reality.

The Centre told the top court that opposition by activists, experts and scientists to GM crops is “ideological” rather than based on scientific rationale.

On October 25, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment ministry approved the environmental release of transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 and the parental lines containing barnase, barstar and bar genes so that they can be used for develop ing new hybrids.

A bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and BV Nagarathna told Attorney General R VenkataramanĂ­, appearing for the Centre, that the question which needs to be answered is whether with the environmental release of the GM mustard seeds there will be any irreversible consequence.

“What we want to know is whether in Indian conditions is there any compelling reason for environmental release of GM mustazrd, that if we do not do it now, we will be doomed or if you need to have more safeguards and can re lease it at a later stage,” the bench said.

Justice Nagarathna said, “We are not on ideology Our farmers are not like farmers of western countries as far as literacy and awareness is cerned about genes and mutations. No matter how many Krishi Melas’ (agriculture fairs) and Krishi Darshan’ (a programme on agriculture broadcast on DD Kisan channel) we have. That’s the ground reality. We have to look at everything in entirety.”

Venkataramani said the question is not about compulsion but the process, and the government has followed all regulatory process as per the framework recommended by the Technical Expert Com mittee (TEC) appointed by the court.

“There is nothing prob lematic as far as process or regulatory framework is conconcerned. I have demonstrated that all such processes were followed which were recom mended by the TEC. We are not blind to the Indian conditions. Question is why are they (petitioners) against it? They have certain anxieties and concerns that is understandable but they are asking why get into this at all. This is an ideological position,” he said.

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