Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday contradicted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Bt Brinjal moratorium, saying the decision was an outcome of two years of consultations with scientists, chief ministers and other stakeholders and not made under the influence of NGOs.
“I can confidently say no foreign NGO influenced my view. For almost two years, I (as environment minister) had discussions with scientists, state governments, farmers’ bodies and social organisations. There was no consensus,” said Ramesh about the February 2010 indefinite blockade on the transgenic eggplant despite a clearance for commercial release.Ramesh’s statement differs from Singh’s stated view on Bt Brinjal. In a recent interview to international magazine Science, the Prime Minister had linked the moratorium on Bt Brinjal to controversies inspired by foreign-funded NGOs.
“Biotechnology has enormous potential, and in due course of time we must make use of genetic engineering technologies to increase the productivity of our agriculture. But there are controversies. There are NGOs, often funded from the US and Scandinavian countries, which aren’t fully appreciative of the developmental challenges our country faces,” Singh had said.
It was in this context that Singh had spoken about foreign-funded NGOs blocking the Kudankulam nuclear project. Ramesh told HT he “completely understood the PM’s agony and frustration over Kudankulam and the NGOs had vitiated the atmosphere there”.
“I am just saying I didn’t act under the pressure of NGOs in the case of Bt Brinjal. But I must say that NGOs, at times, try to hijack the debate,” he said.
Ramesh said the “full protocol of tests” on Bt Brinjal had not been done and there was no independent mechanism to allay the fears of the farming community.
"Unlike Bt Cotton, Bt Brinjal is something you would consume every day. Safety and reliability tests had not been completed,” he said, adding that scientists like Dr MS Swaminathan shared the concerns.
“I was directly involved. The decision was based on these factors,” Ramesh said when asked about the Prime Minister’s statement.