Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing activist Aruna Rodrigues, submitted before a bench comprising justices Dinesh Maheshwari and B.V. Nagarathna that no one knows about the effect of GM mustard environmental release, which has the potential of contaminating all mustard seeds in the country.
Bhushan submitted that at present, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) says GM mustard will be used for creating more hybrids. He argued that hybridisation is not a new technology and there are non-GM hybrids that outperform GM crops.
“There are over 4,000 varieties of mustard being cultivated in India and almost every household in the country consumes it,” said Bhushan, adding that all these varieties will be contaminated if environmental release is not stopped.
Bhushan said the authorities concerned can use GM mustard in a controlled greenhouse environment, but it should not be released in an open environment.
He added that the apex court’s technical expert committee had recommended a moratorium of 10 years on field trials of BT transgenics, and in the final report, recommended an indefinite and complete ban on herbicide-tolerant crops.
Bhushan emphasised that GM mustard is said to be herbicide resistant as they will absorb them, but these herbicides contain substances which are carcinogenic which have harmful effects on humans and animals as well as plants.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing Gene Campaign, cited technical expert committee reports and added that major gaps exist in the regulatory system, which need to be addressed first, and till then, it is not recommended to conduct field trials of GM crops.
Parikh said the GEAC is an appraisal committee and not an approval committee, yet it is giving approvals for field trials.
The hearing in the matter will continue on Thursday.
On October 25, the GEAC had allowed the environmental release of GM mustard for seed production and testing.