GM mustard test: Plea in HC to destroy plants before flowering, demands controlled testing

Organizations campaigning against genetically modified (GM) crops told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that GM mustard seeds have started germinating and have already flowered before they were cleared for environmental testing. Its plants should be uprooted so that the environment can be prevented from getting contaminated. On October 25, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), constituted under the Ministry of Environment, had given environmental approval to the transgenic mustard hybrid variety DMH-11. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court against this approval.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for activist Aruna Rodrigues, campaigning against GM crops, made the submissions before a bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice BV Nagaratna. He said that no one has any idea about the impact of GM mustard’s environmental clearance and it could contaminate all the mustard seeds across the country.

Bhushan said, ‘The only advantage being told about GM mustard is that this technology will be used in the development of new hybrid varieties. But the principle of taking precautionary measures is applicable in this case. This principle will apply when there is a possibility of harmful effect by approving something. Apart from Rodrigues, NGO ‘Gene Campaign’ has also demanded in one of its petitions that no GM variety should be released for environmental clearance without comprehensive, transparent and stringent bio-safety provisions. Along with this, Bhushan said that he is not against testing GM mustard in a controlled greenhouse instead of an open environment.

In order to increase the productivity in GM crops, some changes are made in the genes of the plants. However, opponents of this apprehension that such changes in genes cause many side effects which in the long run have a big bad effect on the ecosystem as well as the farmers. In many cases, the natural power of the plants to protect against pests was over and in some cases the modified plants themselves were not able to give birth to new plants. This increased the dependence of farmers on pesticides and GM seeds. Due to which many new types of problems came to the fore. However, it is said in favor of GM that due to GM crops, necessary production was achieved to meet the demand. On the other hand, due to better changes, many positive changes can be brought in the new plant.

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