Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh was heckled by farmers and others opposing Bt Brinjal at a public meeting on the introduction of the genetically modified (GM) vegetable in the country by a US multinational.
Ramesh was greeted with protests when he arrived at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Farming on the outskirts of this city for the meeting on Sunday.
Scores of protestors, including farmers, activists from the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), affiliated to the CPI-M, and the RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, scientists and members of NGOs gheraoed the minister, raising slogans. They also disrupted the meeting to be addressed by the minister.
The protestors said GM crops such as Bt Brinjal could have adverse effects on humans as they have not been tested properly. They also argued that the introduction of Bt Brinjal would cripple the economy and hamper India’s national biodiversity and self-reliance.
“We have heard enough speeches on the issue. We want the Government of India to withdraw the decision,” said AIKS leader K Ramakrishna.
The minister’s repeated appeals for calm to allow a discussion fell on deaf ears. When the situation was threatening go out of control, the police intervened and arrested some protestors to restore order.
Ramesh later said he had never faced such an “unbecoming and unwarranted protest” by farmers and political activists. He said a final decision on Bt Brinjal would be taken in the next 10 days after completing the current round of public consultations.