V.S. Vijayan, Chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, has said that Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has saved the country from a catastrophe by announcing a moratorium on introduction of Bt brinjal.

Reacting to Mr. Ramesh’s announcement on Tuesday, Dr. Vijayan told The Hindu that the decision forestalled the surrender of the country’s food security to multinational companies, such as Monsanto and Mahyco. Had the Minister okayed Bt brinjal cultivation in India, the farmers and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would have been forced to launch a ‘second Quit India Movement’ to throw out Bt brijnal and other genetically modified (GM) food, Dr. Vijayan said.

Mr. Ramesh had at a meeting here on Monday said he would come out with a decision on Bt brinjal on Tuesday.

Mr. Vijayan said the biodiversity board had taken a pro-active role in offering a sustained resistance to Bt brinjal. Last week, it called a high-level meeting of the Agriculture Ministers and top officials of the States to discuss the issue. The meeting came out with a strong opposition to all genetically modified food. The board had lobbied the Kerala government to announce that no GM crops would be allowed in the State.

Dr. Vijayan wanted the Minister to announce a moratorium not just on Bt brinjal but on all GM crops for 50 years. “Let us monitor what is happening in the U.S., Canada and other countries where GM crops are cultivated and if it is proved that such crops are beneficial, we can very well adopt them,” he said.

R. Sreedhar of Thanal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based environmental NGO, said the campaign ran by the country’s famers and the NGOs had borne fruit.

Mr. Ramesh’s announcement that Bt brinjal would not be adopted until an independent scientific body established that it was good for India was a ‘balanced and fair’ decision, said Mr. Sreedhar, who is the regional coordinator for the Coalition for a GM-Free India.