Jayanthi Natarajan line reversed, Moily and Pawar will ask SC to allow GM trials

NatarajanNatarajan had rejected the draft after it was approved by a committee of secretaries. (PTI)

Environment Minister Veerappa Moily and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar are learnt to have agreed that a joint affidavit should be filed in the Supreme Court, asking that field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops be allowed, albeit with "stringent conditions".

The line taken by Moily, who met Pawar on Thursday to discuss the government's position on GM field trials, is at variance with the majority opinion of the court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) which recommended a countrywide ban on field trials.

While Pawar has consistently argued against a sweeping ban on GM trials, the consensus has come after the replacement of Jayanthi Natarajan by Moily. Natarajan had rejected a common affidavit by stakeholder ministries, cabinet secretary and the Prime Minister's Office.

Moily and Pawar decided on Thursday that officials of their two ministries would sit together to find a "consensus position" and formulate a "fresh common affidavit" before the next hearing in April. Apart from the broad agreement on field trials, the joint affidavit would contain some new recommendations that were discussed, sources said.

"It was widely agreed that the government should plead that GM crop field trials should be allowed with stringent conditions. It was also found fit that the consensus and joint affidavit should argue against the TEC recommendations point by point, based on merit," a source said.

The draft affidavit had opposed the TEC recommendations. Natarajan had rejected the draft after it was approved by a committee of secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary, at which the Environment representative had apparently given the ministry's consent. Following Natarajan's objection, Pawar had written to the Prime Minister.

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