For some, Bt brinjal was Indian agriculture’s equivalent of sending man to moon. For others, it was potentially disastrous.
Fierce opponents of Bt brinjal are rejoicing and have now called for liability clause to be activated to hold Bt brinjal’s developer responsible for any leakage of seeds.
“We have urged the environment minister to ensure that a liability clause is fixed on the crop developer making it solely liable for any potential leakage and contamination during the moratorium,” Kavitha Kuruganti of the Kheti Virasat Mission said.
The concern, she said, stemmed from earlier instances of Bt cotton seeds making a backdoor market entry in 2001, before it was cleared the next year.
“The minister must now reassure the nation that the moratorium will not lead to a back door entry of Bt brinjal,” said Rajesh Krishnan, campaign manager with Greenpeace India. Tuesday’s decision to can Bt brinjal until further tests reflects a deep scientific divide, lack of confidence in India’ biotech regulator and public resistance.
“We have consistently voiced our concerns on this issue. We are not against the use of genetically modified technology to improve crop yields. But we definitely oppose Bt-brinjal,” said Sunita Narain, who heads the Centre for Science and Environment.
However, for scientists who have put in hard work to develop it, the decision has been hugely disappointing. “It’s a sad day,” said a scientist who ran several tests on Bt brinjal, requesting anonymity.
“I think more than 14 lakh farmers are being denied the opportunity to enhance their income to the tune of $330 million per annum,” said Bhagirath Choudhury of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.
Developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco), where US biotech firm Monsanto owns a stake, Bt Brinjal has a gene inserted into it to make it poisonous to pests. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee cleared Bt brinjal on October 14.