New Delhi: Farmers & prominent NGOs oppose large-scale Bt brinjal trials Print E-mail

 “India is the origin for brinjal. The introduction of Bt brinjal will cross pollinate other non-Bt brinjal crops and pose a threat to the centre of origin.”
Devinder Sharma - Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security

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  New Delhi -- Thursday, June 15, 2006

To Bt or not to Bt, that’s the question

Farmers’ groups are opposing its proposed large-scale field trials

ASHOK B SHARMA

NEW DELHI, JUNE 14:  The transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal, has become the centre of controversy with farmers’ groups and NGOs opposing its proposed large-scale field trials, before commercialisation.

Bt brinjal is developed by Mahyco by inserting the Cry 1 Ac gene through agro-bacterium mediated transformation, which claims to protect the crop from fruit and stem borer. Mahyco has developed four Bt brinjal hybrids, namely MHB-4 Bt, MHB-9 Bt, MHB-80 Bt and MHBJ-90 Bt.

These varieties have qualified the routine contained field trials and bio-safety tests conducted by the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM). Subsequently, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) posted the findings of the contained trials on the website on May 31 and invited public comments within 15 days, after which, it would consider the crop for large-scale agronomic trials before approval for commercial cultivation.

Reacting to this move, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, leader of Bharat Krishak Samaj shot out a letter to the GEAC chairman BS Parsheera, cautioning him not to rush with the approval for big agronomic trials. “What is posted on the website is the company’s data. The process of biosafety tests are not disclosed. The data are not sufficient to vouch for the health safety of Bt brinjal,” he said.

Dr Chaudhary pointed out reports of hazards associated with GM food .

NGOs and farmers group, including Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, met health minister Anbumani Ramadoss and sought his intervention as the transgenic brinjal was likely to pose various health hazards.

Devinder Sharma of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security said, “India is the origin for brinjal. The introduction of Bt brinjal will cross pollinate other non-Bt brinjal crops and pose a threat to the centre of origin.”