The moratorium imposed on Bt brinjal last year is likely to continue, despite the expert committee, set up by the environment ministry, favouring "limited release" of the crop. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh yesterday made it clear that his ministry was against such a move.
“There is no such thing as limited release,” Ramesh told Business Standard.
Majority of the 16-member Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), constituted by the ministry to look into long-term safety of Bt brinjal, favoured limited release of the genetically modified variety under strict monitoring. The committee of scientists and experts on gene technology, had met on April 27, and most had suggested there was no need of further testing.
Dr Pushp Bhargava, a GEAC member, however said, there were no recommendations by the committee. Limited release was just an opinion. “People who had vested interest only favoured partial release,” she said.
The mandate of the expert committee was to decide whether further tests was needed to be conducted on GM crops. “The committee will meet again to take a view on that,” Bhargava said.
Date for the next meeting has not been finalised yet.
Reacting to the Ramesh's stand on Bt brinjal, scientist Shantu Shantaram said the move would adversely impact the fate of other BT crops in the country. “The country needs scientific intervention in agriculture and GM crop is the answer. There is no scientific proof suggesting genetic contamination due to GM crops. I strongly support the expert committee opinion that no further tests are required,” said the executive director of the Association of Biotechnology-led Enterprises.
Recently, a study paper by researchers, led by Aziz Aris from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, detected the Bt toxin Cry1Ab, used in GM crops, in human blood for the first time. The study done on pregnant women found the toxins in their blood.
Genetically modified crops include genes extracted from bacteria to make them resistant to pest attacks.
These genes make crops toxic to pests but are claimed to pose no danger to the environment and human health.
Genetically modified brinjal, whose commercial release was stopped a year ago, has a toxin derived from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). However, Shantaram discounted the study saying there was no scientific base for the research paper.
While imposing a moratorium on commercialisation of Bt Brinjal, Ramesh had said the moratorium will last till independent studies establish the safety of the product from the point of view of its long- term impact on human health and environment. He had also referred to the existence of ecologically-friendly and successful alternatives for solving pest problems in crops.