Bringing to an end the controversy over the disclosure of bio-safety data on genetically modified (GM) food crops, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Thursday directed the department to make the data for Bt brinjal public. The CIC set aside the seed company, Mahyco’s argument before the Commission that the disclosure of such data has significant commercial implications to the company.
The CIC bench headed by its chairman, Wajahat Habibullah said ; “any further grounds for non-disclosure are invalid even if the information is in the process of development”. It directed the CPIO and the department of biotechnology to provide the information within 10 working days. The appeal was filed by Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace India on February 23, 2006 asking the toxicity, allergenicity and other relevant data for GM brinjal, rice, okra and mustard.
In its impleadment petition to the CIC, the seed company, Mahyco had claimed that the public disclosure of anything beyond the summaries of the bio-safety data for brinjal would affect the competitive interests of the company. The bio-safety data is generated completely by the company either in its own labs or in other private labs.
The commission has set a precedent across the world where bio-safety data of a yet to be commercialized transgenic crop has to be made public.
The DBT had claimed during the hearing that it has not generated relevant data on these crops as yet, despite the fact that it has been sanctioning open-air field trials of the GM crops for past three years, said Raghunandan
Taking cognizance of the willful delay by the DBT in the disclosure of the information, interpreted by the commission as non-compliance of its previous order in April this year, and thereby, causing loss of time and effort to the appellant, the CIC offered a financial compensation for the appellant, Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace.
In his reaction to this verdict, Shekhar Singh of the National campaign for people’s Right to Information said, “this is a very important decision because it has positive implications not only on making public the data regarding GMOs but also sets a precedent that all information regarding public health and safety should be made available under the RTI act.”