Uttarakhand on Friday became the first State in the country to announce a ban on Bt Brinjal even before the Centre takes a final decision on the introduction of the controversial genetically modified crop.

The State also asked the Centre to follow suit even as the final consultation as part of the public hearings in seven cities convened by Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is set to be held in Bangalore tomorrow.

“Keeping in view the sensitive nature of Uttarakhand and its diversities which have to be protected, we have to remain watchful against crops like Bt Brinjal. We have decided to ban the farming of Bt Brinjal in the state,” Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said in a statement in Dehra Dun.

Though several States including West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Kerala have opposed the introduction of Bt Brinjal, the Chief Minister’s announcement to ban it significantly came even before the Centre takes a final decision. Uttarakhand will be the first state to announce a formal ban.

Mr. Ramesh had earlier said a final decision on the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal would be taken before February 10.

The Bangalore meeting is likely to be stormy with pro-commercialisation and opponents gearing up to make themselves heard. Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has already sought deferment of release of Bt Brinjal till the issue is thoroughly examined from all angles taking into account the views of all the stakeholders and conducting a long-term research for its bio-safety and its consequent contribution to food security and farmers’ well being.

India’s biotech czar Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw meanwhile slammed attempts to politicise the Bt Brinjal issue and whip up emotions by opponents of its commercialisation saying the decision be better left to farmers.