Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said a decision would be taken on the controversial issue of Bt brinjal by mid-February.

“I am already holding public consultations in various cities and is in touch with scientists and consumer. By February 15-20, I will be able to tell the government about the decision of the environment ministry,” Mr. Ramesh told reporters at a function here on Thursday.

Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent statement in Thiruvananthapuram that all safety aspects needed to be taken before allowing commercial release of genetically modified food item, Mr. Ramesh said, “We have to be extra careful with the food item. It is not an easy decision.”

“Bt cotton has been successful in the country but it cannot be compared with Bt brinjal which is a food item and deals with health issue of the people”, the minister said.

Mr. Ramesh said the decision would be taken in keeping with farmers’ welfare and would not compromise the health of the public. If needed, more tests will be conducted, he added.

The next hearing will be held in Bhubaneshwar on January 16 and the third in Ahmedabad three days later.

The fourth public hearing will be held in Hyderabad (January 22), fifth in Bangalore (January 23), sixth in Nagpur (January 27) and seventh in Chandigarh on January 30, the minister added.

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