|Major new development in case before Supreme Court (23/11/2006)|
Major new development in case before Supreme Court
There has been a major new development in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) brought by Aruna Rodrigues and three co-Petitioners before India's Supreme Court.
As previously reported, on the 6th November the Petitioners filed their Rejoinder to the request by Delhi University for the Court to grant an exemption for its GM mustard from the moratorium introduced by the Court on new GM field trials.
The Rejoinder drew renewed attention to the GM issue in India, not least because it stated that important scientific information had been suppressed by Delhi University. This information would have shown that the GM mustard it is developing contained a potential Terminator-type capability to create seed sterility. The Rejoinder also presented evidence that the technology was "leaky" and so had the potential to spread its sterility in the environment to related plants and crops.
Now, in a completely separate development, an Application has been filed in the Supreme Court by the Association of the Rice Millers and Exporters in India. This is not only a trade body recognised by the Government of India but which - with Indian rice exports in the region of Rupees 7500 crores a year (10 million =1 crore) - is a major player.
Aruna Rodrigues is said to have welcomed the move by the rice exporters, as it is solely based on proceedures in law and not on any direct intervention in the PIL, ie the rice exporters are not impinging in any way on the autonomy of the 4 co-Petitioners.
In fact, the rice exporters' Petition invokes the Precautionary Principle in line with the PIL, and like the PIL wants a moratorium to protect the rights of agriculturalists and consumers to grow and consume GM-free crops, as well as to safeguard the interests of the nation and Petitioner so that the export of rice doesn't suffer.
The Petition specifically seeks to "put in place proper Rules/Proceedures/Guidelines/Policies for research/field trials in GMOs rice/basmati rice that shall mandate the requirements for proper scientific examination of all relevant aspects of Biosafety before such field trials are undertaken".
The Petition also points out "that the release of GMOs into the environment resulting from field trials could result in the contamination of rice and affect the biodiversity in an irreversible and lasting manner as even a small percentage of 0.06%" has led to a total ban on affected rice imports by a number of countries.
It also notes, "The letter from the EU Commission putting the responsibility of exporting/importing GM free rice on 'economic operators' in the light of Bt rice found in Chinese samples highlights our economic vulnerability."
The Petition also says the "GM event must be delared safe for long-term human consumption by health authorities and not genetic scientists and agricultural scientists"
It also asks, "How can companies claim there is no contamination if there is no test to prove it? Then who is liable and responsible for contamination as a result of GM trials, in the absence of any framed rules/regulations in India?"
Below are the Prayers from the Petition. These include the important requirement that, "Companies to put up bonds and also obtain insurance to cover the economic risks of such trials. The companies doing the trials should have to face to the full consequence of any contamination/leakage and all consequential losses."
U.S. rice farmers, millers and exporters would have been extremely glad to have had the protection of such a condition. Not so Bayer CropScience, which is denying all legal and financial responsibility for the contamination by its GM rice varieties that has triggered the U.S. rice industry's gravest ever crisis.
A. Implead the Apllicant Association as party to the Writ Petition B. Direct the Respondents not to allow any reserach/field trials of GMOs rice in India until the Rules//Proceedures/Guidelines/Policies that are or will be framed are monitored, audited and certified by the DBT in their implementation on the ground and at the location of such trials. Companies/Institutes cannot outsource or delegat that responsibility to the farmers or to someone who does not have adequate qualifications. All trials to be held with high visibility signage and security C. Direct the Respondents to ensure that every field trials should have a lead scientist who shall be responsible for the total compliance of all regulations.
D. Direct the respndents to frame strict rules/regulations so that if field trials conducted by any compnay/institute result in any economic loss on account of such acts of omission/s or commission/s in the course of conducting the field trials then the affected stakeholders will be compensated by the company/insitute conducting the trials. Companies to put up bonds and also obtain insurance to cover the economic risks of such trials. The companies doing the trials should have to face to the full consequence of any contamination/leakage and all consequnetial losses E. Direct the Respondents to frame rules so that all trials to be preceded by the publication of an internationally accepted and validated test protocol to test for that event so that it can be conformed that there has been no leakage of the GM into the environment or seeds.