The Centre is likely to take a decision on whether to allow commercial release of genetically modified (GM) mustard by September, the Supreme Court was informed on Monday. Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha conveyed this to a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud during the hearing of a batch of petitions by environment activists against permitting commercial cultivation of GM mustard, saying it poses health risks.
However, the Ministry of Environment has already issued a report declaring GM mustard safe and claiming it does not raise any public health concerns. The environment ministry reinforced these findings by submitting an affidavit stating the same to the Supreme Court.
Dr Pushpa M Bhargava, India’s premier geneticist, who was appointed to the GEAC by the apex court, has warned that opening the door to GM crops at the macro level could prove disastrous. “Our agriculture will be in the hands of multinational companies,” he warns. “We will lose our independence.”
“There are larger issues and the government is looking into it. In one or one-and-a-half months, the government will take a decision,” said the bench. “If a decision did not happen by September-end, then it will not happen this season.” The court directed the government to place its decision on record and posted the next hearing in the second week of September.
Most of the mustard producing states, including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh oppose the rollout of GM mustard. Millions of mustard growing farmers across the country are eagerly following the whole matter.