The Kerala government will join the nation-wide protest against Bt Brinjal on the Martyr’s Day.
Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran called upon the people of the State on Friday to join the fast being organised by non-governmental organisations on January 30. People could also fast from their homes or offices to protect farming, health and environment.
The Minister told a press conference that the decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee favouring release of Bt Brinjal for cultivation in the country lacked transparency. Details such as the scientific basis for the conclusions of the Committee, factors considered by the Committee and any dissent within the Committee should be disclosed.
Mr. Ratnakaran said that the World Health Organisation and several European countries had not favoured consumption of genetically modified food.
Referring to an article by Union Minister of State for Agriculture K. V. Thomas supporting the release of the technology, Mr. Ratnakaran said that the Mr. Thomas should be stating his opinion not in his individual capacity but as Minister. Kerala was a biodiversity hotspot and could not allow its biodiversity to be contaminated.
Poet Sugathakumari, who also attended the press conference along with others, said that release of Bt Brinjal was the beginning of release of more varieties of genetically modified crops. The long term impact of the genetically modified crops on the biodiversity would be known only later.
She said that agriculture scientist M. S. Swaminathan had told her that he had recommended establishment of government testing laboratory for GM crops as back as in 2004. He had noted that the consumption of genetically modified food would be in chronic dosages.
Chairman of the State Biodiversity Board V. S. Vijayan said that genetically modified food was not being introduced for poverty alleviation. Nor was it to reduce use of pesticides. Though control of a pest by genetic modification would result in increase in yield, attacks by other pests might necessitate increased use of pesticides to retain the yield. The cost of genetically modified crop was higher and supply would be dependent on foreign monopolies. The country had more than 200 varieties of brinjal which would be contaminated by Bt Brinjal.
S. Usha and R. Sreedhar of Thanal, a Public Interest Research, Advocacy, Education and Action Trust, also attended the press conference.