India’s first genetically modified food crop, Bt brinjal, could get government’s conditional approval even as biggest Brinjal producing states - West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar have rejected the crop.
Environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh will announce the government’s decision on Bt brinjal soon. Developed by seed firm Mahyco, Bt brinjal has a foreign gene (Cry1ac) inserted to make it poisonous to pests.
“The government is keen to allay people’s fear on BT Brinjal safety,” a senior ministry functionary said. “At the same time we would like to promote GM crops, which is an answer to country’s food security in the coming days.”
The environment ministry is thinking of conducting independent safety tests on Bt brinjal and making it mandatory that the farmer’s approval be sought before the the crop is introduced. The ministry will also deal with the issue of labelling of GM crops, in a set of conditions, the functionary said. “I do not expect anybody to be happy with what I will decide,” Ramesh said, who has been conducting acrimonious consultations with stakeholders. The view was divided at most places but the biggest opposition came from farmers in Hyderabad and West Bengal.
Ramesh said, “In back of my mind I have interest of all — consumers, seed producers and bio-diversity. But, we also need to reduce the use of pesticides.” He refused to comment on the conditions likely to be imposed.
Abhijit Sen, member in-charge agriculture Planning Commission, however, wanted the government to be more cautious on BT Brinjal as it was a food crop unlike Bt cotton.
“This Bt brinjal is unnecessary… The data being shown to rationalise its entry in relation to pesticide use and damage to the crop is exaggerated and not scientifically correct,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of NGO Kheti Virasat Mission, a group opposing Bt brinjal.
On Monday, the Karnataka government became the tenth state to ban commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. Most non-Congress ruled have rejected Bt brinjal in interest of farmers.