Moily, Pawar to jointly file affidavit in SC seeking nod for GM trials

The UPA government is set to clear all environment constraints to investors with M Veerappa Moily replacing Jayanti Natarajan as the minister of environment. The government is likely to reverse all decisions – from Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats to the ban on trails of genetically modified crops - if the latest developments are signs of things to come.

The ministry of environment and forests under petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily is set to reverse a series of decisions taken by previous environment ministers, apparently with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections due in five months.

The prime minister had also, in his press conference on Friday, said the government would be announcing some new investor-friendly measures before its term expires.

Moily and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar are reported to have agreed on filing a joint affidavit in the Supreme Court pleading that field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops be allowed, although with "stringent conditions".

It may be remembered that a court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) had earlier recommended a countrywide ban on field trials of GM crops. The Supreme Court is still hearing a PIL filed by anti-GM crops activist Aruna Rodrigues.

Moily and Pawar have taken a different stance and are reported to have sought selective permission for conducting GM field trials, as opposed to the majority opinion of the TEC.

Pawar, who has consistently argued against a sweeping ban on GM trials, has now found meeting of minds with Moily in place of Jayanthi Natarajan, who had rejected a common affidavit by stakeholder ministries, cabinet secretary and the prime minister's office.

While the PMO had sought a consensus from the cabinet on a move to oppose the expert committee's recommendations, Natarajan was opposed to allowing field trials of GM crops.

Natarajan had rejected a draft after it was approved by a committee of secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary, at which the environment representative had also consented, say reports. Pawar had since written to the prime minister.

Officials of the environment and agricultural ministries will now meet to find a "consensus position" and formulate a "fresh common affidavit" before the next hearing in April.

Apart from the broad agreement on field trials, the joint affidavit would contain some new recommendations that were discussed, reports said.

Meanwhile, last month, Maharashtra became the first state to permit controlled field trials of GM food crops since last year when the ban was put in place, pending a final order from the SC.