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Protests in Kolkata against Bt-Brinjal cultivation in Bangladesh

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More than 20 Indian organisations participated in a campaign here to protest against the commercial release of genetically modified crops like Bt-Brinjal in Bangladesh, with scientists saying it was a "threat to India".

Introduction of transgenic brinjal in - a centre for the origin and diversity of the vegetable - would give rise to contamination of the crop in India, said scientist Tushar Chakraborty.

"It is a threat to as brinjal largely cross-pollinates and therefore such transgenic contamination poses a threat to the local varieties of brinjal and natural biodiversity as well," said Chakraborty, a molecular biologist at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.

Representatives of the organisations participated in a four-km protest march from the Sealdah station to Minto Park, near the office of Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), partly-owned by the US-based corporation Monsanto.

Mahyco is mainly responsible for the development of Bt-Brinjal - a variant engineered by inserting a gene from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that produces an insecticidal toxin.

In India, an indefinite moratorium has been imposed on the cultivation of Bt-Brinjal while field trials of the crop are banned in the Philippines.

Chakraborty is one of the 250 scientists from across the country who endorsed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that was released Nov 21 in New Delhi, in which they have urged that steps be taken to stop open air release of Genetically Modified Organisms.

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