1.Centre nod to make public toxicity data of GM crops

2.Show GM food data, says court


1.Centre nod to make public toxicity data of GM crops
The Times of India, 9 April 2008

NEW DELHI: After persistently refusing right to information applications seeking access to the toxicity and allergenicity data relating to genetically modified crops, the Centre [the Government of India] on Tuesday agreed before the SC [Supreme Court] to make these public, much to the joy of anti-GM crop campaigners.

The government's refusal to part with this information had led to petitions filed by NGO 'Gene Campaign' and Aruna Rodrigues, who alleged that the data had vital bearing on the safety of human beings and environs.

When the matter came up for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran, counsel for petitioners ”” Sanjay Parikh and Prashant Bhushan ”” said the companies experimenting with GM crops could not claim privacy and copyright over the data as it did not relate to the manufacturing process but about the future damage potential of the crop.

At this point, additional solicitor general Amarandra Saran, in what marked a major shift of stance, told the bench that the government was willing to put all data relating to toxicity and allerginicity of the GM crops, which are under experimentation prior to field trial, on the official website.

Just two years ago, the Department of Bio-Technology had rejected an RTI [freedom of information] appeal on the issue and said: 'The toxicity and allergenicity data being generated on transgenic crops that are yet to get the approval for commercial cultivation, is the intellectual property of the applicant.'

'It also has commercial value and disclosure of information on the same is likely to adversely affect the competitive advantage of the applicant generating the data as it can be taken as publicly available information by the competitors in the same field.'


2.Show GM food data, says court
The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), April 9 2008

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today [April 8] ordered the government to make public all data on genetically-modified (GM) crops that is relevant to environment and safety, responding to activists seeking independent scientific scrutiny of claimed results.

In a ruling on petitions filed by non-government organisations, the court said all the relevant data on toxicity and allergenicity studies conducted on laboratory animals should be made public by the Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC).

The GEAC is a government agency that approves GM crops for field trials and commercial cultivation after evaluating the results of such studies. But it has never made public details, such as design and analysis of the studies on the animals.

Petitioners said they are still unsure what data will be released.

'We need fine details for independent scrutiny,' said Suman Sahai, director of Gene Campaign, a research and advocacy organisation that had filed a petition seeking transparency and strengthened regulatory mechanisms to govern GM crops in India.

'We need data that will tell us how the animals responded, what were the doses given, what measurements were done on the immune system, the statistical analysis used,' she said. 'We still don't know whether they're going to make this public.'

In response to an earlier request, Sahai said, the GEAC had merely provided information about what animals were used in tests, where the studies were conducted and the conclusions.

'It was a pretence of giving information without giving anything useful at all,' Sahai said. 'We’re going to be on our guard that they don’t do the same thing again.'

In the past, GM crop companies and the department of biotechnology have argued that research data is 'proprietary and confidential' and its public release was likely to 'harm the competitive advantage' of the companies.

'We have in place independent regulatory systems for evaluation of such data,' biotechnology secretary M.K. Bhan said. 'Whatever data is available [!] will be made public,' he had said yesterday, when asked whether the department would support the release of the data.

The clamour for independent examination of safety data has grown in the past two years after data submitted to European regulators by an international company was found by independent scientists to have adopted inappropriate statistical methods to draw favourable conclusions about GM crops.

'All we're asking for is a transparent system where any qualified scientist can have a look at how the animals responded, said Jai Shankar, an activist with Greenpeace India, which has also been trying to access safety data from the government.

Greenpeace activists have pointed out that several countries have adopted a cautious approach on genetically engineered crops.