Bt brinjal gets the green signal
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the biotechnology regulator today approved the commercialisation of genetically modified Bt brinjal. Bt Brinjal still needs the government's nod before its release in the market, report Zia Haq and Chetan Chauhan.india Updated: Oct 14, 2009 23:53 IST
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India’s biotech regulator, on Wednesday cleared Bt brinjal — the country’s first genetically modified (GM) food — for commercial use.
However, the Centre will take a final decision on whether this will be allowed.
“The GEAC, after considering reports of two review committees, has given approval to Bt brinjal,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.
“But the government will decide on whether we can allow commercial growing of the genetically engineered crop,” he added.
In GM crop or food, the genetic material is altered through re-engineering.
The GEAC approval came amid some strong objections inside the meeting and widespread protests outside among anti-GM groups.
Ramesh himself has received more than 40,000 e-mails, reportedly from various e-mail addresses of Greenpeace, accusing him of having “sold out” to the biotech companies and of being “anti-national”.
“I condemn the actions of Greenpeace, which are not based on facts. They are spreading wrong information,” he said.
Ramesh had earlier said caution was necessary on GM foods. Efforts to introduce Bt brinjal have been marked by controversy. Molecular biologist and Supreme Court-appointed GEAC observer P.M. Bhargava called Wednesday’s decision as
“pre-decided” and “farcical”.
Bt brinjal has been developed by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech, a joint venture between Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company and US firm Monsanto.
The GEAC took up the report of the expert committee on BT brinjal, which Bhargava and Ramesh Sonti, a scientist from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, claimed had several inconsistencies.
The expert committee was set up to verify safety aspects of Bt brinjal after a French study and three international scientists slammed the vegetable as unsafe.
Bhargava and Sonti said there were flaws in the data on the gene inserted into the brinjal. They also claimed no long-term toxicity and cancer-safety tests were done.
Mahyco’s managing director Raju Barwale said, “Bt brinjal has been tested in full compliance with the guidelines and directives of the regulatory authorities to ensure its safety.”