Biotech department asked to disclose GM test details

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2007

The Central Information Commission has directed the department of biotechnology (dbt) to make public data of tests on genetically modified (gm) crops. The directive came on April 13, 2007, in response to a petition filed by Greenpeace activist Divya Raghunandan in February 2006, after dbt refused to divulge information on the toxicity and allergenicity of four gm crops.

Under the Right To Information (rti) Act, 2005, Raghunandan had demanded a list of field trial locations of gm brinjal, okra, mustard and rice approved by the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (rcgm) for multi-location trials. She had also sought the minutes of rcgm meetings, held between February 2005 and February 2006.rcgm is involved with the evaluation of research and development of gm crops.

Although dbt disclosed field-trial locations, it refused to divulge other gm-test related data. It argued that the rti Act allowed for non-disclosure of information containing intellectual property or trade secrets if its disclosure could harm the position of a third party; in this case, the companies conducting trials. But chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah rejected the argument saying the information could not be withheld under section 8.1 (d). This clause renders any further grounds for non-disclosure invalid.

The commission has asked dbt to provide all information to the applicant within 10 days of the ruling.

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