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Commercial Bt-Brinjal seeds 'infiltrating' Bengal from Bangladesh

IANS  |  Mohanpur (West Bengal) 

The West Bengal government Wednesday claimed it has received information regarding "infiltration" of commercial seeds of Bt-Brinjal, a genetically modified (GM) food crop, from Bangladesh.

State Agricultural Minister Purnendu Bose also cleared his department's stand on rumoured field trials of GM crops, stating it has no immediate plans of starting field trials.

"We have heard that in Bengal districts bordering Bangladesh, seeds of Bt-Brinjal have been found. We will not introduce GMs now and definitely not without proper study," Bose told reporters here.

He was speaking to the media during the ongoing Krishi Unnayan Mela (Farmers' Fair) organised by the state agriculture department and Confederation of Indian Industries at the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vidyalaya campus here.

Bangladesh has gone ahead with commercial release of the genetically modified vegetable Bt-Brinjal - a variant engineered by inserting a gene from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, that produces an insecticidal toxin.

In India, the previous government (UPA-2) had ordered a freeze on field trials of GM food crops but the current NDA government recently gave the go-ahead to field trials of two varieties of genetically modified (GM) brinjal and mustard.

Last year, a group of scientists and NGOs protested in Kolkata and elsewhere against the introduction of transgenic brinjal in Bangladesh - a centre for origin and diversity of the vegetable - as it would give rise to contamination of the crop in India.

"Commercial seeds may have infiltrated... they might have been smuggled in. We have to ascertain the various effects of Bt-Brinjal on local indigenous species before taking any step else farmers will suffer," said Pradeep Majumdar, agriculture advisor to State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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First Published: Wed, November 05 2014. 20:14 IST