Special Correspondent

No studies for toxicity conducted: Expert

“Bt brinjal will impact food security, health”

No gene-flow studies were done

NEW DELHI: Wednesday (October 14) may well go down as the blackest day in Indian history, unless the government reverses the decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to recommend commercial release of Mahyco’s Bt brinjal.

Bt brinjal will impact the country’s food security, health, farming and environment in perpetuity, says a food safety analyst.

“We who know the details of the appraisal of the Mahyco-Monsanto safety dossier by four world renowned scientists [Seralini, Carman, Heinemann and Gurian-Sherman] cannot imagine the extent of the disaster that will unfold in India,” Aruna Rodrigues said from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.

Quoting Seralini of France, Ms. Rodrigues said no long-term feeding studies for chronic toxicity had been conducted for Bt brinjal. These feeding studies only would help reveal tumours/cancers as they grow slowly. “The inescapable conclusion of these feeding studies is that they have been ‘engineered’ or designed to throw up ‘no significant differences’,” she said.

Ms. Rodrigues said Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a former scientist of the Environment Protection Agency, speaking about contamination from gene flow from Bt brinjal to wild brinjal relatives and domesticated varieties, reported that no gene-flow studies were done. “The possibility of harm from gene flow has been widely recognised by many scientists. In the United States, this recognition has been a major factor in regulatory action restricting the commercialisation of GE crops (including cotton) with wild relatives. India is a centre of domestication and diversity for brinjal, and this adds additional concern.”

She said Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, who assessed Mahyco’s molecular transformation methods, asserted that the company had failed at the elementary step of the safety study, analysing the insertion. “I have never seen less professionalism in the presentation and quality assurance of molecular data than in this study,” he was quoted as saying.

Ms. Rodrigues said the fact that the government accepted the principle that the seed-developing company itself should do safety testing of its own product and “trusted” it to do so invalidated the safety dossier.