New Delhi, Feb 13 (UNI) The Supreme Court today directed the Central Government to co-opt Dr P M Bhargava, former vice chairman of Knowledge Commission of India and Professor M S Swaminathan, an eminent Agricultural scientist for the meetings of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), while granting the permission for open field trials of various species of genetically modified food items.
A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal acceded to the request of Prashant Bhushan, Counsel for the petitioner Aruna Rodrigues for inclusion of Padam Vibhusan awardee Dr Bhargava as an independent member to attend the meeting of the GEAC.
The court also acceded to the request of the private companies to include the name of Prof Swaminathan.
Earlier, the Central Government pleaded before the court that the issue of granting granting permission for open field trials of health hazardous food items, which will contaminate and pollute the environment should be left to the Government which has included Regulatory Mechanism in place and work according to the advice and expertise of eminent scientists and experts in the field, and it is not for the court to decide such issues.
Additional Solicitor General B Dutta contended that the petitions were filed with ulterior motives and the GEAC was working in a very transparent manner. The Government was also equally concerned with the Bio-safety, Environment protection and other aspects to look after the health of the people of the country.
Counsel for the petitioner, however, strongly contended that the company, which is pressing for the permission to carry open field trials have been found guilty of bribing officials in Indonesia and Cannada, as they have not been giving details of the research carried out by them and the GEAC has been acting on the reports of the tests conducted by these companies in their own laboratories without getting the same examinee by independent scientists.
Mr Bhushan also said when courts in Germany directed these companies to reveal the details of the research carried out by them it was found that companies like Monsanto presented misleading and distorted reports.
The Apex Court in its order made it clear that the GEAC shall take into consideration, aspects like Bio-safety, Environmental protection, etc, while granting approval for any open field trials.
The petitioner also strongly pleaded for directions to these companies to conduct trials either in their own laboratories or in Green houses so that environment is not polluted and contaminated.
The court also directed that the GEAC will reveal the guidelines and rules, under which the approval for fresh field trials is granted.
UNI AKS/SC PY RP HS1720