Leading molecular biologist Pushpa Bhargava on Wednesday said India's biotech regulatior had cleared genetically modified brinjal for commercial release without all the tests that should have been carried out.
"According to the international scientific community, some 30 tests should be done before any GMO (genetically modified organism) release. In the case of Bt Brinjal less than a dozen of these were conducted. Tests like protein-mix analysis, transprotein analysis and on metabolic processes weren't done. Long term toxicity tests were also ignored," Bhargava, a recipient of Padma Bhushan in 1986, alleged.
Bhargava, founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on Bt Brinjal at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here.
He is also the independent nominee of the Supreme Court to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the country's biotech regulator.
In October last year, the GEAC approved the commercialisation of the genetically modified crop, which drew flak from various green NGOs and public health activists.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is now holding public consultations on the issue and the approval is on hold. States that account for over 60 percent of the production of the vegetable have refused to allow Bt Brinjal.
Bhargava alleged that the head of GEAC's expert committeee II Arjula Reddy had called him and told him that that he was under pressure from "the agriculture minister, GEAC and industry" to grant approval.
In a document that he sent the environment minister, Bhargava wrote: "Arjula made a totally confidential call to tell me that eight of the tests that I had said should be done on Bt Brinjal and with which he agreed had not been done...he was under tremendous pressre to clear the Bt Brinfal and had (received) calls from the agriculture minister, GEAC and industry."