The Centre today told the Supreme Court that it has not granted any approval for commercial cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop in the country and no plantation will take place without its nod. The apex court fixed November 22 for the final disposal of the case and recorded the statement of the Additional Solicitor General that the government has not yet accorded approval to the recommendation of a sub-committee of the Rajya Sabha on GM Crop. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said when the Centre has not accorded its approval for cultivation of the genetically modified crop, it means that there will be no plantation. Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, said that a sub-committee of Rajya Sabha has submitted its report and the government as of now has not taken any decision on the recommendation. "The report is being considered by the government and no decision has been taken as of now on the recommendation," he said. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, said the system of regulating GM Crop is in complete shambles as there is no technology to conduct the tests. He said that a multinational company has conducted the test and submitted the report to the government, based on which it is trying to cultivate the GM crops. Bhushan alleged that the government was sowing the seeds in various fields and the bio-safety dossier, which has put on the website, has not been made public. Alleging that field trials were being carried out without the relevant tests, Bhushan sought a 10-year moratorium on the trials. A Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report had also said that the entire regulatory system was in "shambles" and a 10- year moratorium should be given, he had said. The argument put forth by the ASG was that the regulatory regime has been in place for three decades and 32 reports have been filed over the years, but still the government, while looking at various aspects, has not taken any decision on granting approval. "We will not leave any stone unturned. We will look into the report of sub-committee and then only any decision will be taken.
The petitioners are trying to scare the people but I am making the statement that everything will be looked into and not a single step will be taken till the government grants its approval," the government law officer said. The bench said it will hear the matter at length on November 22. The apex court had on July 31 made clear that it would hear a plea challenging the commercial cultivation of GM mustard crop in the country if the government takes a decision in favour of the roll out. The Centre had earlier told the court that it would be taking a policy decision on the commercial roll out within a month or a month-and-a-half. The court had then said if the government approves the roll out, then it will hear the plea against the GM mustard seeds before the sowing season begins. It had earlier asked the Centre to take a "considered" and "well-informed" view before taking a policy decision on the commercial release of GM mustard crop. The government had said it was yet to take a policy decision on the commercial release of GM mustard crop and has been considering suggestions and objections on the issue. The apex court had on October 17 last year extended the stay on the commercial release of GM mustard crop till further orders. It had asked the government to seek public opinion on such seeds before releasing it for cultivation purposes. Mustard is one of India's most important winter crops which is sown between mid-October and late November. Rodrigues had filed the plea seeking a stay on the commercial release of GM mustard and prohibition of its open field trials. The court was also urged to prohibit open field trials and commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops, including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants as recommended by the TEC in its report. "Since the claimed yield superiority of HT DMH 11 through the B&B system over non-GMO varieties and hybrids is quite simply not true, in fact a hoax, ... There is no purpose to this GMO HT mustard for India," the petition said. It said the contamination caused by mustard HT DMH 11 and its HT parents would be "irremediable and irreversible". "The contamination of our seed stock and germ plasm as will happen with mustard HT DMH 11 and its HT parents will be irremediable and irreversible making our food toxic at the molecular level without recourse," the plea had said.
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