The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India’s biotech regulator, will set up a panel to go into safety issues raised by last week’s French study on BT brinjal.
The study — exclusively reported by Hindustan Times on January 12 — has heated up the controversy over BT brinjal, as India pushes ahead with large-scale field trials.
“The GEAC accepted in principle my suggestion to allow the French team to present its case here,” GEAC member P.M. Bhargava said. The GEAC’s 91st meeting took place in New Delhi on January 14.
In the meet, Health Ministry officials — including drugs controller Surinder Singh — made a strong case for addressing safety concerns, citing HT’s report.
The French study doubted safety data presented
by developer Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco), the Indian arm
of US biotech giant Monsanto. It said eating BT brinjal altered prothrombin (that enables blood to clot) and glucose levels in tested animals.
Mahyco slammed the French study, questioning Caen University professor Gilles-Eric Séralini’s expertise, as his findings relate to multiple disciplines, some “outside his domain”. “Séralini doubts have been satisfactorily answered before the GEAC,” Mahyco general manager M.K. Sharma told HT.
Mahyco said India’s best institutes — like the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Central Avian Research Institute, GB Pant University for Agriculture and Technology, as well
as the Bangalore-based Advinus Labs — had also responded to the French study.
In India, BT cotton is the only commercially approved biotech crop. If BT brinjal is approved, it will introduce a genetically modified food to the Indian population for the first time.
Public advocacy groups have been strongly resisting introduction of GM foods in India, which they say, might endanger public health.