Genetically modified (GM) brinjal is being illegally grown in the Fatehabad district of Haryana, according to anti-GM activists. On Thursday, they demanded that the Central and the State regulatory agencies immediately take action to stop the cultivation, investigate the spread of the illegal variety and destroy all such crops, seeds and saplings as dangerous biohazards are entering the food chain.
Punitive action must be taken against the seed suppliers and the company which developed the GM variety, said the activists warning against a repeat of earlier episodes of illegal spread of GM cotton and soyabean.
Brinjal has been genetically modified by inserting a protein gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to give protection against certain pests. The result is Bt brinjal, which was developed in India by Maharashtra-based seed company Mahyco.
It was on the verge of becoming India’s first GM food crop, when the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared it for commercialisation in 2009, before doubts about the long-term impact on consumer health and plant biodiversity led then-Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to slap an indefinite moratorium on the crop.
When asked about the reports of illegal cultivation of Bt Brinjal in Haryana, a Mahyco spokesperson said the company could not respond until Friday.
“This is a biohazard contamination, and must be treated seriously,” said Rajinder Chaudhary, an activist with the Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan in Haryana.