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Farmers allege illegal Bt brinjal cultivation in Haryana

The coalition demanded that the government immediately ascertain the extent of illegal Bt brinjal cultivation, take deterrent action against seed suppliers involved and destroy all Bt brinjal plots to prevent contamination.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2019 10:02 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Members of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group of farm organisations, claimed on Thursday that brinjal samples from a Fatehabad farm have tested positive for Bt protein.(HT Photo)

Farmer groups have alleged that Bt brinjal, a genetically modified variety, is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.

Members of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group of farm organisations, claimed on Thursday that brinjal samples from a Fatehabad farm have tested positive for Bt protein. The coalition demanded that the government immediately ascertain the extent of illegal Bt brinjal cultivation, take deterrent action against seed suppliers involved and destroy all Bt brinjal plots to prevent contamination. “This is clearly a failure of concerned government agencies that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country. The regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) behaves more like a promotional body than a regulator...Bt cotton was approved in India after large-scale illegal cultivation was discovered in Gujarat. The regulators turned a blind eye to illegal herbicide tolerant cotton cultivation thereafter, while it spread to lakhs of hectares,” said Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust, Gujarat.

A senior official of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of the environment ministry said, “We are not aware of this case. We will check.”

According to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), which works to promote bio-technology, Bt brinjal incorporates the cry1Ac gene expressing insecticidal protein which creates resistance against fruit and shoot borer , a pest.

Activists collected samples from the Fatehabad farm based on a tip-off and then tested it using the lateral flow strip method. “We cannot afford to allow this Bt brinjal cultivation to continue or spread. It is clear that this biohazard has to be contained and destroyed, and GEAC cannot allow citizens to be exposed to the health and environmental hazards of Bt brinjal. GEAC should ascertain and confirm that illegal Bt brinjal cultivation is indeed happening, and find out the full extent of such cultivation. We demand the immediate destruction of all such Bt brinjal plots. Further, no penal action should be taken against farmers who have been duped into cultivating these illegal seeds,” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan from Kerala.

In February 2010, after nationwide consultations with scientists, farmers and other stakeholders, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh had announced an indefinite moratorium on commercialisation of Bt brinjal. Brinjal is the first GM food crop in India. He had said that the moratorium will last till independent scientific studies establish the safety of Bt brinjal from the point of view of its longterm impact on human health and environment.

First Published: Apr 26, 2019 07:31 IST