Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), country’s GM food regulator, had failed to meet global standards on approving Bt brinjal, Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh has found.
India is a signatory to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which states “where there are threats of irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.
But, the GEAC based its approval to Bt brinjal in October 2009 on limited field trials without going for tests over a sufficient number of generations to allow adequate exposure to variety of conditions met in nature.
“It does appear that the current standards by which the GEAC has formulated the decision to approve Bt brinjal do not match these global regulatory norms to which India is a party,” Ramesh said, in his 18- page note on Bt brinjal.
Even prominent GM scientists from across the world have found flaws in the methodology adopted by GEAC to clear Bt brinjal. Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington DC found serious flaws in the GEAC report on evaluation of gene flow risk from Bt brinjal.
Professor Allison Snow and Professor Norman Ellstrand of the Ohio State University had similar issues with GEAC’s safety protocol. Dr David Andow of the University of Minnesota, USA, that there is no sufficient evidence in GEAC report to suggest that Bt Brinjal was environmentally safe. “The manner in which the proponents of the product are recommending to farmers to use this technology is faulty and unscientific and would lead to disaster,” said Dr N S Talekar of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth.
Ramesh also found out that one-third of the tests recommended by Evaluation Committee (EC)-I of GEAC on Bt Brinjal were discarded by EC-II. P M Bhargava, an eminent GM scientist, had raised this issue and had alleged that Mahyco, the company which developed Bt brinjal, failed to conduct eight essential tests.
Although the Central Institute of Cotton Research supported Bt brinjal technology, it made observations on its experience of Bt Cotton making the minister conclude that it points to more tests that are well “designed, widely accepted and independently conducted”.