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GM crop: SC fails to consider expert panel report

Copy of report was not available to govt counsel, several other parties in public interest petitions

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The much-awaited report of the expert committee on genetically modified crops could not be considered by the today as its copy was not available to the government counsel and several other parties in the petitions (PILs).

Moreover, the separate report of Dr R S Paroda complaining that the opinion of the other five members of the panel was not available to him was not circulated before the proceedings.

The bench headed by Justice H L Dattu directed the registry to make available the report, lying in a sealed bundle and weighing some 15 kg, to all the parties before the case is taken up after four weeks.

The report is said to have recommended withholding open field trials of GM crops, till the gaps in the regulatory system are addressed. It has been assailed by the Association of Led Enterprises which has dubbed it as regressive.

Senior counsel representing the companies, K K Venugopal, stated that a comprehensive bill to set up a biotech regulator will be introduced in in the winter session. The bill has elaborately considered every issue.

“The court should keep out of this highly complex issue,” he submitted.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the opponents of GM food, said that the bill was a “red herring”. He also said that Dr Paroda suffered from intense conflict of interest on the issue.

The judges said that even if Parliament passes a bill, the court can make suggestions to fill up lacunae, according to what emerges from the court proceedings.

Two petitions raising the dangers of GM food were pending in the court from 2004 and several committees have gone into the issue. The six-member committee is the latest one and its report has been a matter of heated debate recently, even leading to rallies in the capital.

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