The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking a moratorium on commercialization of Genetically Engineered variety of crops until a competent regulatory structure and rules were put in place.
A Bench of Justice AR Lakshmanan and Justice Altmas Kabir issued notices to the ministries of Environment & Forests, Science & Technology and Agriculture after 'Gene Campaign' counsel Sanjay Parikh mentioned its application for an urgent hearing.
Parikh urged the court to direct the authorities to stop commercialization of
Genetically Engineered variety of crops until the outdated 1989 regulatory regime was updated.
The NGO sought a moratorium on the ground that the 1989 rules for manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms, genetically engineered organisms or cells did not take into account the environmental norms generally followed in other countries.
It contended the moratorium was necessary for protecting environment and public health, protected under the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
On a similar PIL by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues, the court recently restrained the government from allowing any new field trials for Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The Government has, however, sought lifting of the interim ban.
Gene Campaign, which moved the court on the issue two years ago, has also sought a direction to authorities to make public all data relevant for determining environment and health safety standards.
Parikh said the latest application was moved after the authorities refused to divulge "toxicity" and "allergenicity" data generated on trans-genic crops that were yet to get approval for commercial cultivation.
The NGO said the authorities refused to provide such data under the RTI Act on the ground that these were intellectual property of the companies and had a commercial value. The disclosure would adversely affect the competitive advantage of the company generating the data, it was said.
The authorities had further said that data could be provided only for crops, which had already been released and that too after issuing notice to the companies producing them.