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India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) opened the way for the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal in October, 2009. The vegetable has been modified to contain genes (Cry 1Ac) from the Soil Bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a crystal protein, toxic to Lepidopteron pests, so plant exhibits resistance. However, immediately after this decision, there was furious opposition to it by farmers groups, NGOs and Environmental activists such as Dr. Vandana Shiva.  Indian Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, invited public meetings on the issue in various cities of India. On Behalf of safety concern, risk to human being, bio-safety and public protest he announced a moratorium on the commercialization of Bt-Brinjal. He also included that the moratorium will last "till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment.

Bt brinjal was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) under licence from Monsanto (A American Company). On behalf of six year research on bio-safety GEAC had given permission for its commercialization.  This is the only GM crop for direct Human Consumption in the World. Many countries have banned its use for Human Consumption. GM soybean and maize are used either for animals or as bio-fuels.

India is already growing GM cotton since 2002 and now it have covered 90 percent area with many times increased production of cotton which shows its popularity among farmers. So why not Bt-brinjal?

The reasons are

  • The use of Bt technology is not the only way to eliminate the usage of pesticides having several drawbacks such as risk and hazards to human, animals and environment; development of resistant in insects, secondary pest outbreak, resurgence and lethal to bio control agents etc.
  • There is several other way to manage the pest such as NPM (non-pesticide management), getting popularity among the farmers of Andhra Pradesh.
  • According to French scientist Dr. Gilles Eric Seriliani, Bt brinjal produces a protein in the vegetable cells that induce antibiotic resistance against a most popular antibiotic Karamycin.
  • He also observed impact on lactation period of cows, delayed food consumption in rabbits and health impacts on rat.
  • He also stated that data submitted by Monsanto-MAHYCO is insufficient and misleading on several counts.
  • The Cartagena Protocol has provisions that prevent Modification of Indigenous varieties of Crops
  • There is no any data available on its impact on human health. But we would not turn our people into "lab Rats"
  • Brinjal belongs to Solanacae family and higly cross pollinated crop, so the gene can esialy transferred to other varieties leading great threat to bio diversity.
  • The issue of seed being controlled by international agencies surch as Monsanto, whose public perception in India has influenced much of the debate. Although the company has made investments in India and many scientists work here, we must be able to derive maximum benefit from the findings. However, lack of competition in terms of publically funded agriculture agencies has led to monopolistic situations.

Many scientists working in the field of biotechnology raises their voice against the moratorium. This might be bad for the country's agricultural biotechnology and future. Our scientists may lose their credibility, companies will be unwilling to invest more money, and it will take us a long time to pick up the pieces again. There is need to establish an authorized body which can proof the bio-safety of such crops. An individual institution such as National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, and the Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore should come forward to work on this aspect.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.