Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh faced angry protests at the consultations on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) brinjal at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture here on Sunday.
The demonstration by activists of farmers’ and non-governmental organisations, opposing introduction of genetically modified crops, began with the minister’s entry at the institute. The protestors, led by Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham president K. Ramakrishna, blocked his entry to the auditorium.
Others, including activists of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, raised slogans like ‘Bt brinjal go back’ and ‘Monsanto agents go back.’ The exercise did not commence for one hour.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh lost his cool several times and prompted the police to “push out” the protesters after they did not heed his requests to stop shouting. He asked the protestors not to “bring disrepute to Hyderabad,” as nowhere else were such uncalled-for interruptions marred the public consultations.
After hearing a large number of farmers, social activists, scientists, doctors, representatives of NGOs and farmers and consumer organisations for more than two-and-a-half hours (a majority of them arguing against Bt brinjal and GM crops), Mr. Ramesh said he would announce his decision on the first GM food crop in the country on February 10.
“My decision won’t be influenced by any quarter, including scientists, NGOs, agriculture universities or Monsanto. Neither is there any pressure from the PMO nor the Prime Minister. My decision will be fair and judicious, and will be based purely on the outcome of consultations,” he said.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh described as unfortunate the polarisation of the debate from the beginning. He said it was not correct to dub those supporting Bt-brinjal as ‘agents of Monsanto’ and the opponents as ‘anti-technology.’
He appealed to the scientists to educate the people on the facts, and not to add fuel to the fire.