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India: PIL over field trial of transgenic crops



PIL OVER FIELD TRIAL OF TRANSGENIC CROPS

NEW DELHI, Nov 24 (DHNS)
DECCAN HERALD NOV 25, 1999

The Supreme Court has admitted a public interest litigation challenging
permission for the first
major open field trials of transgenic crops involving the planting of
genetically
engineered/modified BT cotton in 40 locations across nine states
including Karnataka in the
country.

The petition, filed by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology
and Ecology sought the
apex court`s intervention to check the ''violation of the environmental
regulations created for
GMOs (genetically engineered/modified organisms) and strengthen
biosafety regulations in the
country``.

The present law on biosafety in India is contained in the rules for the
manufacture, use, import,
export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms/genetically engineered
organisms or cells,
1989, issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Other reliefs sought by the petition include that the permission be
declared illegal, the biosafety
regulatory system be revamped, the guidelines framed by DBT be declared
ultra vires and rules,
independent scientific research on the impacts of genetically engineered
crops and stay be
imposed on the trials.

The PIL has impleaded as respondents the Department of Biotechnology,
Ministry of Science and
Technology, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of
Agriculture, Maharashtra Hybrid
Seeds Company Ltd and Monsanto-Mahyco (India) Pvt Ltd.

The petition has alleged that the respondents have ''violated the
environmental regulation at
every step, from the import of 100 gms of seeds of transgenic cotton
containing bacillus thurin
giensis (BT) genes in 1995, to the multiplying and bulking up of these
seeds for planting across
the country for the multicentric trials of these seeds in the open
environment``.

Apart from the illegality of the trials, there was an inherent defect in
the trial design, as no steps
for containment were taken making the trials environmentally unsafe, the
petition said.