NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the Minister of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for not making public information on genetically midified (GM) crops and asked to provide biosafety dossier of GM mustard as well as data pertaining to all other GMOs in the pipeline.
The CIC was hearing a case by Kavitha Kuruganti, an activist working for sustainable farm livelihoods. The commission directed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the MoEF to verify and provide biosafety dossier of GM mustard as submitted by the crop developer in 2014 and in 2015, after separating confidential information.
The CIC also directed that all biosafety data pertaining to all other GMOs in the pipeline also be put out before April 30, 2016, as this is part of voluntary disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
The MoEF has avoided putting agenda and minutes of GEAC meeting from nearly past two years while field trials were given approval. The ministry received lot of communication from scientists, farmers and social activists opposing its move to allow commercialization of GM Mustard.
In this case, the regulators and the Ministry was declining requests for a copy of the biosafety dossier as submitted by the applicant, despite the fact that earlier Supreme Court and Central Information Commission Orders exist from 2008 and 2009 respectively in similar cases.
The CIC, Shri Madhabhushi Sridhar, who heard the case and passed the Orders, reasoned that if respondents could share the gist of meeting minutes, there is nothing to stop the disclosure of the entire text of minutes and that the public authority has no authority to limit the disclosure to ‘gist’ and refusing the rest.
CIC also argued that right to information of citizens about biosafety testing does not depend on its success or failure and the authority has to share the information irrespective of the outcome. The CIC also held the PIO responsible for not discharging his/her duty of substantiating what and how ‘confidence’ would be breached if biosafety data is shared.
Denial of information on the pretext that it was under process is simply unreasonable, the CIC analysed.
“The decision making process should be told, along with information about whether such process is adopted, minutes of the meetings, results of clinical trial, and entire information about GM mustard etc. This is in public interest,” said the order.
It further said that the people should know how and why GM mustard is being permitted or denied because they have to consume that food or feed and face consequences.
“It is a policy decision by the public authority which needs to be revealed to the public in general as mandated by S4 because they are going to be affected if GM mustard is marked”, the CIC Orders stated.