Field trials of GM crops can go ahead, rules SC

The Supreme Court has refused to restrain the government from proceeding with open field trials of the controversial genetically modified (GM) crops for the coming rabi season, despite the recommendation of its own expert committee, which had sought a 10-year ban on such trials (See: SC panel moots 10-year halt on GM crops).

Hearing a public interest litigation filed by anti-GM food activist Aruna Rodrigues, a two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justices Swatanter Kumar and SJ Mukhopadhaya invited views of all the stakeholders on the expert panel's report, but refused to pass a stay order in the meantime.

Rodrigues through her advocate Prashant Bhushan had sought the court's intervention to stop the field trials until a new set of regulatory conditions is enforced, as suggested by the expert panel.

Bhushan argued that a ban was necessary as open field trials in the current form could lead to contamination of indigenous species and loss of bio-diversity. He cited the example of basmati rice to claim that even the slightest of contamination would cause the country to lose the Rs14,000-crore European market.

Lawyers representing the union government and the biotech industry, however, countered these claims.

The hopes of anti-GM activists had been raised first by the appointment of the panel, since it comprised independent experts not connected with the GM industry, and the findings of the committee boosted them further. However, the apex court has dashed these hopes at least for now.