More than 15 persons representing non-governmental organisations from Kerala will attend the public consultation being organised by the Ministry of Environment in Bangalore on January 25, on permitting commercial release of genetically modified brinjal (Bt Brinjal) in the country.

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh had announced the holding of the consultations at different places following protests against approval granted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry for the first ever release of a genetically modified (GM) food in India.

The non-governmental organisations- Thanal, Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, One Earth One Life, Chilla, Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi, Karshika Karma Sena (Trivandrum) and Haritha Sena (Kozhikode), are opposing the release citing risks.

According to these organisations, there is extensive evidence demonstrating that GM crops and foods cause adverse impacts on human and animal health, and also on the environment. In addition, it seriously compromises farmers´ and consumers´ socio-political and economic rights and also cultural norms.

Experts warn that genetically modified crops, especially of food, significantly increase health risks, cause crop failures, contribute to loss of agricultural and natural biodiversity, and seriously erode livelihood choices.

A recent study, published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, showed that genetically modified corn caused damage to organs in rats. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver though heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system were also found to be affected.

Campaigners against Bt Brinjal said that the Approval Committee had violated transparent, fair, independent and scientific enquiry norms. Many members of the committee were representatives of institutions promoting genetically modified crops.

They said that the release of genetically modified food for human consumption would constitute an unprecedented public health risk as it is based on an infant technology that had been developed intransparently and poorly tested. Once released, genetically modified organisms would remain largely uncontrolled and unregulated, thus causing unforeseeable consequences. World-over, GM foods had been a subject of intense controversy with growing opposition to introduction of GM foods for consumption.

“Brinjal is an indigenous vegetable plant to India and home to a vast number of varieties. These varieties have been carefully selected by farmers based on hundreds of years of experience with their cultivation and consumption. Today, brinjal contributes to almost eight per cent of vegetable production in India and is a widely consumed vegetable. If Bt Brinjal is released, there is a very high risk of cross contamination of natural varieties and could potentially wipe out many indigenous brinjal varieties. In addition, there is very high risk that related species could also be contaminated irreversibly.”