Special Correspondent

Says crop will have adverse impact on people, livestock and the environment

KOZHIKODE: In an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Janata Party (S) Parliamentary Party leader M.P. Veerendrakumar has expressed concern at the move to introduce Bt brinjal in the country.

According to the letter, released here on Thursday, genetically modified crops are widely believed to have had adverse impacts on people, livestock and the environment. He quoted scientists in support of his argument that Bt brinjal should not be introduced.

He said a number of similar genetically modified crops introduced earlier, within and outside of the country, had been reported to have had harmful effects on health and economy.

The JD(S) leader said the serious misgivings being voiced about Bt brinjal were justified "since it had been learnt that it had been developed using the same gene as that used in Bt cotton promoted by the same company." Many of the dangers associated with Bt cotton could arise from Bt brinjal also.

"The aad marker gene and the nptll marker gene used in Bt brinjal are antibiotic-resistant," he said.

The former Union Minister said that in his opinion the data put out by the promoters of the new brinjal variety regarding the advantages of Bt seeds were unreliable as "these had been proved to be false with respect to Bt cotton". Mr. Veerendrakumar said "the haste with which Bt brinjal is going to be introduced is of much concern, especially when there is absolutely no crisis in the production of brinjal and there are reliable and successful pest management approaches that could be adopted by India's farmers to grow the crop.''

Quoting scientists, Mr. Veerendrakumar said that "in the light of the opinion expressed by well known experts about the dangers arising from genetically modified crops, the green signal shown by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for field trials to Mahyo-Monsanto enabling them to commercially launch the world's first Bt brinjal in 2007, becomes a recipe for disaster of immense magnitude".

He said India should learn lessons from the experience of Hawai in launching a commercialised GM fruit papaya. That virus-resistant papaya variety was introduced in Hawai in 1998, but the GM variety soon turned out to be "more devastating than the virus" as traditional buyers of Hawaiian papayas rejected the new variety.

Mr. Veerendrakumar appealed to the Prime Minister to immediately effect a comprehensive ban on all GM field trials since "GM crops had detrimental effects on agricultural, economic, health and ecological fronts."