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Anti-GM groups step up efforts to stall commercial release of transgenic mustard

Joining hands with anti-GM groups from across the country, the senior Supreme Court lawyer
Prashant Bhushan on Saturday wrote to environment minister Anil Madhav Dave, urging him to
withhold his approval of genetically modified (GM) mustard's commercial cultivation.

Bhushan's letter comes two days after the central biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal
Committee (GEAC), gave its green signal to the commercial release of GM mustard. The final
decision is now on the environment minister's table who can either accept the regulator's
recommendation or reject it. It is learnt that the ministry will go by the Supreme Court's ruling in a
case challenging cultivation of GM mustard.

Bhushan, who had last year appeared in the apex court for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues against
commercial release of GM mustard, flagged all the issues in his letter to Dave which are being raised
by all anti-GM groups including the RSS-linked outfit Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) from time to
time and questioned as to why the 'self-assessed' safety dossiers by the developers of the transgenic
mustard are kept secret by the regulator.

Referring to the Bt brinjal case which was approved by the GEAC but later rejected by the then
environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010, Bhushan wrote, "The Bt brinjal bio-safety dossier
remained unpublished for 16 months despite a SC order, but eventually, the regulators had to
comply with its full publication (with the raw data), which then revealed its fraudulence when
examined and appraised by independent scientists of international stature".

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Similar point was raised by the Coalition for a GM-Free India - a broad platform of hundreds of NGOs
representing farmers, consumers and other stakeholders - in its letter to Dave on Friday. The
Coalition too urged Dave to "summarily reject the application for approval of GM mustard".

The government had, however, during hearing of the pending petition last year responded on all
these points and even told the Supreme Court that the petitioner by seeking an independent review
was undermining the credibility of the Indian scientific community and demeaning the regulatory

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The environment ministry had then even justified not putting the full dossier of 3,285 pages on the
website. Referring to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the ministry pointed out that all the
information need not be disclosed as it could compromise the developers' intellectual property
rights and the data could be used by rivals. It told the court that the summary put out on the website
was sufficient for the public to make an informed judgement.

The sangh outfit, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, is, meanwhile, also planning to write to Dave and the
Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week, demanding rejection of the GEAC's recommendation.
Other anti-GM group, Navdanya, has given an all India call to intensify resistance to GM Mustard.