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Updated: January 14, 2010 01:12 IST

Consultation on Bt. Brinjal in Bangalore on Jan 25

Special Correspondent
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A file picture of a protest action by Karnataka farmers in Bangalore against permission for Bt Brinjal. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu
A file picture of a protest action by Karnataka farmers in Bangalore against permission for Bt Brinjal. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) has urged the farmers, agricultural experts, non-governmental organisations and all other stakeholders in the State to attend the consultation on Bt. Brinjal being held in Bangalore on January 25.

CEE Senior Project Officer P.V. Mohanan said at a press conference here on Wednesday that the consultation in Bangalore was part of a nation-wide initiative by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to hear different views on the issue in the wake of the controversy generated by the recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a statutory body of the MoEF, to environmentally release Bt. Brinjan in the country based on the recommendations of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation, a statutory body, and two expert committees constituted by the GEAC between 2006 and 2009. Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh would chair the consultations in all the seven locations including Bangalore, he said adding that the CEE, an autonomous organisation engaged in environmental and sustainability education has been entrusted with the task of organising the consultations.

The consultations were being held in the wake of strong views raised both for and against the introduction of Bt. Brinjan, a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a gene cry1Ac from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into brinjal, which is said to have given the brinjal plant resistance against lepidopteran insects, Dr. Mohanan said. While the promoters of Bt. Brinjal say that it will be beneficial to small farmers as it is insect-resistant and increases yields and has minimal environmental impact, there are also conerns about its possible adverse impact on human health and biod-safety, livelihoods and biodiversity. While industry promoters as well as public and private sector scientists consider Bt. Brinjal a breakthrough in agricultural research and development in the country, many scientists, civil society groups, farmers' unions and even some political parties argued that the risks far exceeded the benefits.

The objectives of the national consultations on Bt. Brinjal was to provide a forum for various stakeholders to express their views and concerns on the genetically modified brinjal and to provide appropriate inputs to the government before a final decision was taken, he said. The consultations would be open to all members of the public. Stakeholder groups representing diverse viewpoints on the issue would be invited to the consultations to ensure widest possible participation in them, he said.

A survey conducted among brinjal farmers in Maharashtra by researchers from Cornell University revealed that brinjal growers sprayed pesticides on an average 27 times over a period of about 8 months. We should improve the condition of our farmers by adopting new technologies. Large number of researchers in many countries have been working from many decades to find natural resistance against fruit and shoot borer in brinjal. So far this has not yielded any fruitful results. If an academician working on floral culture has some alternative methods to prevent this insect (as mentioned by Mr. Mainak Dutta in the previous comments) why this researcher has been waiting instead of passing on the findings to our fellow farmers. I happened to read the Bt brinjal document on ministry web site and believe that Bt brinjal has undergone large number of biosafety assessment studies as prescribed by our government regulators. New technologies and scientific advancements were always opposed by some groups / people. No technology is adopted without opposition. Best example in the recent past was Bt. Cotton. Now our farmers are reaping the benefit of Bt cotton and this technology enabled to drastically reduce the insecticide sprays. These activists and NGOs were opposing introduction of Bt cotton as well. Recombinant DNA technology has extensive applications. The majority of insulin dependent patients in India are now treated with genetically engineered recombinant human insulin. The cost of insulin had dropped substantially after the introduction of genetically engineered recombinant human insulin.

from:  Naren Keral
Posted on: Feb 2, 2010 at 11:57 IST

Recently, on 13th of Jan'2010, the 1st public consultation on Bt Brinjal was held in Kolkata. The consultation was chaired by Mr Jairam Ramesh himself. Though a few farmers and scientists spoke in favour of Bt Brinjal, majority of the farmers, scientists, academicians, NGOs, consumer forums spoke against the GM crop. Some of them wanted the Government to go slow on this issue and wanted the latter to have a back up plan if anything goes wrong. The farmers mostly spoke from their experiences whereas scientists submitted experimental datas to the union minister to support their views. The consumer forums were concerned about the right of the people to choose between Bt and non-Bt Brinjal. Some of them also voiced their concerns for the protection of the right of the farmers to cultivate non-Bt Brinjal. An academician working on floral culture suggested some alternative methods to prevent the Fruit and Shoot borer disease of the Brinjal. He also questioned the viability of the Bt Brinjal seed throughout the year subjected to varying seasons. Some of the scientists and farmers also spoke in favour of Bt Brinjal but they faced stiff resistance from the opposition. Except few cases the consultation was grossly found to be non political.
But to my surprise I found the media grossly irresponsible. They were reluctant to cover the actual proceedings.They were more interested to cover the chaos. They got energetic when the union minister threatened to leave the proceedings after he got irritated with the indisciplined public.
People should be more aware of the Bt. Brinjal. I have freinds studying in the field of Biotechnology or other biological sciences who are completely unware of the controversy. So how can we expect the general public to be aware.
I think Bt Brinjal should not be commercialised at present. The Govt. should frame a general policy for GM crops. Bt. cotton went wrong at some places because of Govt. policy. I am not against GM crops but I am against this Bt. Brinjal coming to the market. A 30 day rat trial is not sufficient to prove human safety. Moreover this is an irreversible technology. Once introduced in the environment it cannot be recalled. Moreover the right of consumers and cultivators to choose between GM and non-GM crops should be protected.

from:  Mainak Dutta
Posted on: Jan 28, 2010 at 12:15 IST

In 2001, I wrote in 'Current Science' that let the users decide the fate of Bt technology. That statement was made in response to Bt cotton controversy raised by Geetha Bharathan. This time too, I feel that major stakeholders are farmers. Let us allow them a say. The farmers will benefit a lot with increased brinjal production and less use of sprayable pesticides. The Bt brinjal fruits in the market will not be loaded with different kinds and quantities of pesticides. As far as safety of Bt brinjal is concerned, I have all faith in the protocols and tests prescribed by GEAC. Let us trust Dr. M.K. Bhan, Secretary, DBT. I would like to eat baigan bharatha and subji of Bt brinjal first, if given the chance; without ifs and buts.

from:  Govind Gujar
Posted on: Jan 24, 2010 at 11:53 IST

How Many farmers are included in the consultation meet at different places in India with Hon.Minister ?
I would like to share the real pain of farmers, spraying everyday insectisides early morning and same day evening to save their crop. Does anyone think of that? Those who are opposing to Bt. Brinjal, please do plant one acre normal brinjal and see how much pain you have to take to save your crop.
Bt. Brinjal is the best option to gain more productivity to feed growing millions of Indians and keep farmers away from spraying lots of insectiside.

from:  Sunil Madan
Posted on: Jan 22, 2010 at 15:25 IST

Would you consume BT containing Brinjal or Pesticide coated Brinjal? BT is investigated as safe for human consumption and approved by scientific body instituted by Govt. To think that this body would approve something unsafe is unthinkable because they and their children and relatives too would be eating these products once approved.

BT-Cotton has been in farmers fields for over 5 years... Cotton oil does enter food chain. So, the motive behind the noise certain people are making against BT-Brinjal is questionable. One needs to think how they will be benefited if BT-Brinjal does not come to the help of farmers.

Let us not forget that after introduction of BT-Cotton, India as nation became a cotton exporting nation from an importing nation! No sheep has died due to this. There is no proof other than it being propaganda.

The consultation meetings started as a mature and well intentioned process. It is intended to be a democratic process where various views could be raised with no bias. But NGOs seem to be making an organized efforts to defeat its purpose and make noise, not allowing all to express their views. They want to hijack the agenda in a non-democratic fashion. With this if NGOs win, it will be farmers and people who will be losers. Should we continue to support NGOs, or whether the GEAC is something responsible? Citizens should think seriously.

from:  M P Raju
Posted on: Jan 22, 2010 at 12:53 IST

It is worthwhile to take a look at the below article. It is time we voice our opinion against serving poison on the platter

from:  Meera
Posted on: Jan 21, 2010 at 22:28 IST

I would like to quote some words of Dr. M.K. Bhan, secretary, department biotechnology, (Government of India): 'Thirty best scientists have cleared it (Bt brinjal)and we stand by it. I am a health professional and let me tell that Bt Brinjal is absolutely safe for all mammals...It's safe for the human body and it's safer technology'. Dr. Samir Bramhachari, chief of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,(CSIR) the apex body of government-run CSIR says 'Let me also say that adopting this technology (Bt brinjal) will help thousands of farmers'. Please also read the expert committee report on Bt brinjal at the ministry web site: As far as the Bt cotton is concerned, in the year 2008, 5 million Indian farmers benefited from Bt cotton crop from an area of more than 7 million hectares which is about 82% of the area under cotton crop in India. Cotton production in India is jumping year after year of Bt cotton commercialization (Ref. cotton production data). Our Prime Minister also said Bt cotton is a well accepted technology (Ref. Indian Science Congress, Jan 3rd 2010, Thiruvananthapuram). Let us grant the wisdom to make use of all these new technologies to the Indian farming community.

from:  Naren Keral
Posted on: Jan 21, 2010 at 12:21 IST

Mr Sathish's argument for the Bt.cotton and Bt.protein is very clear with regard to the crop and its protection. But I think he is no way qualified to talk about the safety of human beings in consuming this agricultural produce. Medical fraternity is only qualified to talk about it, that too not in one or two years; certain pattern of consumption will tell upon the human physiology and genetics even after ten years. How much of multiple organ failures in humans may happen is a point of conjecture and dependent on how much time and personnel are involved in the research in medical science.

from:  uthamanarayanan
Posted on: Jan 15, 2010 at 20:15 IST

I am a plant molecular biologist not connected with any of the MNC seed giants that are trying to sell Bt-Brinjal in India. I believe that this is a positive development and will help brinjal farmers in India. The fear about Bt-protein becoming a toxin for humans is misplaced. People who are not actively involved in agriculture hold a naive notion that conventional farming has no negative side. Some of the systemic insecticide if handled improperly by the farmer can still be carried over even after the consumer has washed it thoroughly. When we buy vegetables at the shops we do not know when the plant that bore the vegetable was sprayed for protection from insects and pathogens and with what chemical, or do we? Compared to this scary reality a small quantity of Bt-protein is not going to be harmful to human health. Insect damage paves way for fungal/bacterial infestation of the vegetable. These pathogen infestations may not visible to the naked eye, but some of these pathogens produce toxins that cause ill-health in humans. Such stealth pathogen-produced toxins are non-existent in Bt-protein expressing plant tissues. This is another benefit in Bt-protein expressing plants. The issue of farmer suicide has never been positively attributed to the introduction of GM plants. Farmers have been committing suicide for many centuries before the implementation of GM crops. But nevertheless it has somehow got ingrained in the folklore as if the introduction of GM crops has brought in this dire situation. It is to be remembered that farmers in India were cultivating GM cotton even before it was approved by Government of India. Farmers were not forced to cultivate GM plants. Farmers, despite popular notion to the contrary in urban areas, are pretty knowledgeable people and get things done to benefit them, be it in the acquisition of seeds, crop protection tools, subsidies, etc. Let us look at what happened after Bt-cotton was released in India. It is being taken up in a wide scale. The cultivation of GM cotton has also bolstered Indian textile industries and exports have increased not only in volume but also in value. India was renowned, even in ancient times, for its agricultural produces and they were exported far and wide. This is because farmers in India were innovative and employed the best practices. It is high time that India regained its rightful position in the world as the bastion of agricultural innovations and continues to provide food security to the ever growing number of its citizens.

from:  Sathish
Posted on: Jan 14, 2010 at 02:17 IST

I am astonished after reading the comment of CG Krishnamurthi highlighting the death of sheep which grazed on BT COTTON. I have not read it before. Truths are rarely published directly or even if published, these would be published indirectly. Thanks CG for the information and Thanks to The Hindu.

from:  ritesh ranjan
Posted on: Jan 13, 2010 at 23:34 IST

It's strange to note that the words 'strong views raised both for and against the introduction of Bt. Brinjal' is carried by all press... so far other than few GEAC members and some politicians there are no strong views for BT-Brinjal. On the other hand scores of Agricultural bodies, Former cooperatives, independent Scientists have voiced alarm about the seriousness of introducing Genetically modified food items in India and shocked about the haphazard & corrupt way of rushing through the approval of GM Foods and other GM crops in India. Same arguments were given 4 years back (that it will help small farmers) during the introduction of BT-Cotton which has only increased the Farmer suicide in Telengana and Vidharba region and death of over 2000 sheep which grazed the BT-Cotton fields... This has resulted in GM contamination of all most all cotton across India.

from:  CG Krishnamurthi
Posted on: Jan 13, 2010 at 17:31 IST
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