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Consider altering distance for field trial, court asks GM panel

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to consider whether the distance of 200 metres from one field trial to another one could be reduced or increased depending on the choice of crop.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran was hearing an application from the Centre and pharmaceutical manufacturers seeking modification of the May 2007 court order.

The Bench asked the GEAC to consider whether the 0.01 percentage of level of detection (LOD) could be varied depending on the crop, and to put up on its website the results of the trials particularly data on toxicity and allergenicity, and to file the minutes of the April 2 GEAC meeting.

Acting on public interest litigation petitions from Aruna Rodrigues and Gene Campaign, the court in May 2007 permitted grant of approvals to 24 new GM varieties.

In February this year, it gave a further direction for approvals to other new varieties.

In its May 2007 order, the court said: “The GEAC shall take sufficient precautions to see that these trials are not causing contamination to neighbouring fields. There should be at least a 200-metre distance from the trial fields to the neighbouring field having the same type of cultivation. Prior to bringing out the GM material from the greenhouse for open field trials, the approved institution should submit a validated event-specific test protocol at an LOD of at least 0.01 per cent to detect and confirm that there has been no contamination.”

Ms. Rodrigues’ counsel Prashant Bhushan said the rules for grant of approvals were yet to be put in place and there was no transparency in granting fresh approvals.

Appearing for Gene Campaign, counsel Sanjay Parikh said data on public health such as toxicity and allergenicity were made publicly available before GE plants were taken to field trials.

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