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Solicitor General of India's utterances in the GM case 'misleading and irrelevant': NGO

Counterview Desk 
The  Coalition for a GM Free India has
 said, it condemns "misleading and irrelevant" utterances by the Solicitor General in the GM Case, equating the "highly-avoidable risk of some amount of GM edible oil imports illegally with the risk of cultivation of HT crops in Indian conditions.
Stating that it "defies the very science of risk assessment", the top advocacy group underlines in a statement, "Several illegal and improper procedures were followed for biosafety assessment and clearance given to environmental release of GM mustard." 
It adds, "No health expert participated in the health safety assessment of GM mustard."

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The Coalition for a GM-Free India condemns the irrelevant and misleading arguments of the Solicitor General of India on 18th January 2024, when the Supreme Court of India reserved the batch of petitions related to GMOs including GM foods for judgement. Gene technologies in agriculture constitute irreversible and uncontrollable living technologies, pointed out the Coalition, and reiterated that the unanimous report of independent technical experts of the Court have asked for abundant caution, based on a precautionary approach. Such a precautionary approach is based on extensive published scientific evidence on the subject. Equating the avoidable risk involved in some amount of GM edible oil imports with the cultivation of herbicide tolerant crops in the country defies the very science of risk assessment in regulation, said the Coalition. Even the import of GM edible oil is patently illegal and has not undergone proper risk assessment, while the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has not yet notified regulations under Sec.22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. In fact, the FSSAI stands in contempt of SC Orders of 2017 on this subject.
The Coalition said that the SG’s appearance and incorrect utterances were left without a counter from the petitioners, since the Hon’ble Bench immediately and unfortunately reserved the matter for judgement. “The Coalition is forced to put out this public statement urging the Hon’ble Bench of the Supreme Court to consider all aspects highlighted in the batch of petitions filed by numerous public- spirited groups and citizens, in addition to farmers and beekeepers whose livelihoods are at stake”.
The proceedings in the batch of petitions including the main petitions of 115/2004, 260/2005 and 840/2016 related to GMOs and their regulation in India, as well as GM HT mustard environmental release in particular witnessed the last-minute entry of SG. Before this, a Supreme Court Bench consisting of Hon'ble Justice BV Nagarathna and Hon'ble Justice Sanjay Karol heard arguments from all sides. The SG, during his arguments pointed to two facts relevant to the case – that of illegal imports of GM edible oil, and that GM mustard is herbicide-tolerant. The SG argued unscientifically that consumption of GM edible oil has not caused any health impacts on Indian population, without providing an iota of scientific evidence to substantiate this statement. 
The SG is indeed right in pointing out that the Hon’ble Court has to adjudicate on whether India should opt for GM HT mustard cultivation, even as we import some quantities of GM soybean oil. The Supreme Court is urged by the Coalition to recognise the irreversible risks associated with GM crop cultivation, and the additional risks of Herbicide Tolerant Crops – this is about environmental risks to our soils, our mustard germplasm diversity, on honeybees and other beneficial insects, on livelihoods of farmers, beekeepers and farm labourers, on trade security related to mustard and honey etc.. 
The following remain irrefutable facts in the matter:
1. India imports negligible quantities of GM canola oil into the country (just about 7 to 25 thousand metric tonnes, while the overall edible oil import quantities are around 14.5 million metric tonnes). India is self-sufficient in mustard oil – while the production is around 3.9 million metric tonnes, the domestic consumption is 3.95 million metric tonnes.
2. Price of edible oil is not an issue for consumers of the country, given that India at present imports cheap palmolein oil made cheaper by anti-farmer ex-im policy decisions by government. The vast majority of imported edible oil is cheap, non-GM palmolein oil (9 MMT of 14.5 MMT = 62%), while the SG went on and on about how access to cheap oil has to be kept in mind by the Supreme Court while weighing the risks and benefits of GM HT mustard. Soybean oil import is 3.2 MMT (only 22%) and not all of this is GM soybean oil. 
3. Meanwhile, GM HT mustard even in the clandestine illegal trials conducted in Rabi 2022-23 did not show any oil increases compared to non-GM hybrids. Earlier data on GM mustard hybrid yield increases were rigged and unscientific, and as the petitioners pointed out, the Union of India admitted in writing in its own affidavits that there is no yield increase claim that can be made about GM HT mustard. Across the world, in several countries, non-GM hybrids are out-performing GM canola substantially.
4. GM mustard of Delhi University is herbicide tolerant, by virtue of the fact that it has bar gene present in both parental lines, enhanced for its increased expression by a special genetic modification built into the GM mustard hybrid. Bar gene is tolerant is glufosinate, which has several health risks, as can be seen in published scientific literature. Both the Bar-bargene-barstar technology originally taken from Bayer and glufosinate were patented technologies and the terms and conditions related to the use of the technology have never been made public so far. 
5. India is a Centre of Diversity for Mustard, and the AG’s presentation of a published paper in Nature is about Centre of Origin of Brassica juncea. The TEC and other credible high level committees have recommended against gene technologies in crops for which India is the Centre of Origin and/or Diversity. 
6. Several illegal and improper procedures were followed for biosafety assessment and clearance given to environmental release of GM mustard. No health expert participated in the health safety assessment of GM mustard. Moreover, GM mustard was never tested as a HT crop and there are no protocols for the testing of HT crops in India’s regulatory regime.
7. The full biosafety dossier was never published on the regulators’ website as ordered by the Supreme Court and CIC. 

Comments

Maya Valecha said…
Did Coalition for GM free India oppose GMO Covishield vax injected to 80% of the people who received vax? It wasn't even needed as 80% showed antibodies b4 the vax roll out ICMRstudies. 99.5% of people had immune memory from previous Coronavirus exposure. IgG produced by all is the proof.

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