Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will Bt brinjal make it to your plate?(TOI )


Will Bt brinjal make it to your plate?

Panel To Announce Findings On Suitability For Environment Today

Jayashree Nandi | TNN 

Bangalore: The controversial debate on the commercialization of Bt brinjal might just hit a decision point on Wednesday. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will meet on Wednesday to announce their findings on the bio-safety of Bt brinjal and recommend whether it is suitable for environmental release. 
    A lot of anxiety has built up prior to the meeting as Bt brinjal will be the first food crop to be commercialized in India. In the light of controversy over its safety and impact on India’s varied biodiversity, this meeting will hold special significance. 
    All stakeholders tried to keep the conclusions under cover to avoid any rebellion against the issue. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India member B S Dongra who is also a member of the GEAC said: “I have doubts, but those might get cleared after the biosafety findings are presented on Wednesday. The government will take appropriate action on the issue.’’ 
    Ranjini Warrier, member secretary, GEAC, preferred not to comment. “I am not authorized to speak about it. We will know the findings only tomorrow after the meeting,” she said. However, sources said that environment minister Jairam Ramesh met Warrier and GEAC chief Parsheera on Tuesday evening to take stock of the matter. 
    Meanwhile, there was a lot of pressure from civil society organizations who sent letter to the minister’s office asking him to intervene and stop the environmental release of Bt brinjal. 
    “Over 41,000 letters from different parts of the country have been faxed to minister Jairam Ramesh. The secrecy around this issue is raising more concerns among people. The findings are to decide on the environmental release of the brinjal. It is of great concern for civil society because the government is going to decide what we are to eat. International experience shows that many countries have had to face problems from the release of such foods. Molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini in his study had revealed that there was an antibiotic gene in Bt brinjal. 
    The antibiotics are Canamycin and Neomycin, both are drugs for tuberculosis. So chances of antibiotic resistance are also there,” said Sustainable agriculture campaigner Rajesh Krishnan.






Say ‘no’ to Bt Brinjal: civil society groups

Gargi Parsai - The Hindu

NEW DELHI: Civil society groups have cautioned the government against introducing genetically modified crops in the food chain and questioned the credentials of a panel of experts to look into the biosafety of Bt Brinjal, which will come up before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on Wednesday.

The committee was set up by the GEAC to look into the findings of independent experts who raised concerns at the safety of Bt Brinjal from health and environmental perspectives.

“Conflicting interests”

At least three of its members had “conflicting interests,” the civil society groups alleged on Tuesday. For, two members were involved in an earlier research commissioned by Mahyco, the seed company that has developed Bt Brinjal. The third, himself involved in GM crop development, too has a stake in Bt Brinjal.

Undue haste was being shown. The report was not put up in the public domain, and “there is total lack of transparency,” the groups said.

Meanwhile, many citizens have represented to Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, reminding him of his assurance to a delegation of the Coalition for a GM-Free India in June.

The civil society groups include the Bhartiya Kisan Union, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, the Right to Food Campaign, Madhya Pradesh, Greenpeace India, Samvad, Sampark, Thanal and Living Farms.

The developer of Bt Brinjal in India is seeking permission for commercial release of this first GM food. The seed company claims this technology will help farmers reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

“If a crop like Bt Cotton which is considered non-edible can throw up problems such as human allergies and animal deaths, one can imagine what lies in store from Bt Brinjal. No such genetically engineered vegetable exists anywhere else in the world. We don’t want such GM foods coming in and jeopardising the health of Indians,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India. When safer, affordable alternatives existed for pest management all over the country, there was no need for Bt Brinjal.

“India is the Centre of Origin and Diversity of Brinjal. If Bt Brinjal is approved, this will be the first time in the world that a GM crop is allowed in its Centre of Origin/Diversity, risking our bio-diversity. If China can say ‘No’ to GM Soy and if Peru can refuse GM Potato, why can’t India say ‘No’ to Bt Brinjal,” asked Jaikrishna of Greenpeace.

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