The Indian Government has sent a “wrong signal” to the industry by putting on hold commercial cultivation of genetically modified brinjal, Biocon India chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has said.

“This is a very wrong signal government has sent to the industry,” Ms. Shaw told reporters here.

On February 9, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal till such time independent scientific studies establish the safety of the product on impact on human health.

Bt Brinjal is a genetically-modified vegetable which is infused with Cry1Ac gene from a bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to make the plant resistant to the fruit and shoot borers and certain pests. Some scientists and NGOs have been opposing it, arguing that the genes were toxic and would affect the health of the consumers. Some states, including Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh, were also opposed to the move.

Ms. Shaw said the same fears were expressed when Bt Cotton was introduced and today “India is the second largest Bt cotton producer in the world.”

She said companies have engaged in research for years and established their efficacy before coming out with its products and it was unfortunate that the government has yielded to pressures from some NGOs. There should have been a discussion at a scientific level, she added.