Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change reprimanded for delay in disclosure of bio-safety data on Genetically Modified Mustard Trials

Central Information Commission (CIC): While coming down heavily upon Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for delay in disclosure of bio-safety data on Genetically Modified Mustard Trials, CIC directed the two officials responsible for the delay to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against each of them for non-compliance and breaching their own undertaking to provide information within 2 months. Earlier in April, CIC had directed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex regulatory body for GMOs, to make public the non-confidential bio-safety information on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The direction was aimed at enhancing transparency in the regulatory approval process and was applicable to all GMOs in the pipeline including GM mustard variety – DMH11. As per the direction, GEAC has to keep all the relevant data in the public domain by April 30, 2016. However, the disclosure of intellectual property data was exempted. Said directions of CIC came on an application filed by an environment activist, who sought information regarding field trials of GM mustard from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, but was denied the information. Instead of furnishing information as ordered by CIC in April 2016, the public authority requested for two more months but did not honour its own commitment to furnish in that time and on 28 June they sought another extension, this time for 90 days. While rejecting the plea for further extension of time, CIC noted “There appears to be no seriousness in seeking extension. They are routinely asking for extension without specifying the period. The commission views such tactics are only to delay but not serious requirement for giving. By this they will only harm the public interest and facilitate to promote some interest. Not desirable.” Commission further noted that public authority is attempting to keep vital information out of public discussion which amounts to prevention of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression of the appellant, who is interested in discussing the pros and cons of GMO related issues of GM Mustard, which if permitted would cause serious impact on the public health of consumers in large scale. After directing the Environment Ministry to reveal safety data regarding trials of genetically modified (GM) mustard without further delay, Commission also issued show cause notice to the two officials responsible for the delay in the matter. [Kavitha Kuruganti v. Ministry of Environment & Forests, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 9827, decided on August 12, 2016]

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.