Jan 16, 2010

A resounding No to Bt Brinjal across the country

It was a busy and triting day today. A strong and loud verdict against Bt brinjal came from three cities across the country. First, at the 2nd National Consultation held at Bhubaneshwar in Orissa, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, announced that with the State saying a loud and clear No to Bt brinjal, more than 60 per cent of the brinjal growing areas of the country -- Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa -- have formally rejected genetically modified brinjal.

I will bring you a report of the Bhubaneshwar event tomorrow.

But first let me share with you two more Bt brinjal events that happened in Hyderabad (in Andhra Pradesh) and in Baroda (Gujarat). My colleague Dr Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture was at a meeting organised by the AP University for Agriculture. He tells me that the AP Agricultural University has formally opposed the introduction of Bt brinjal, and also called for a moratorium on Bt brinjal. This is encouraging indeed, and it is probably for the first time that agricultural scientists have asked for more tests.

I however would like to draw your attention to the report that Dr Ramanjaneyulu has sent me. I am pasting it below, and you will be amused to read about the role played by IARI scientists in promoting Bt brinjal. in fact, IARI is becoming a centre of national shame the way it unabashedly is promoting the commercial interests of the biotechnology companies. I hope Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is reading this. But I do not expect Sharad Pawar to take any cognisance of what his scientists are doing, because he too is pushing for an unwanted technology at the cost of farmers.

Meanwhile, I was in Baroda today, and had a long day. Starting with a preparatory meeting, followed by a press conference, I joined a silent march taken by concerned citizens in the city today culminating in submission of a memorandum addressed to the President and Prime Minister. The memorandum was presented to the Collector of the district, and he promised to forward it to the top functionaries. This peaceful march, organised by the Baroda-based voluntary organisation Jatan -- A Mision for Organic Farming along with several volunteers, attracted a lot of attention from shopkeepers and onlookers.

I was particularly very happy to see the involvement of the people. A lot of women, men and young students joined this rally, and this gives me strength and hope. When people take control over what they should eat, I am sure the industry and the agricultural scientists will behave.

And now, take a look at the report from Hyderabad:

Finally AP Government says no to Bt Brinjal. Today a meeting was organised by Acharya NG Ranga University and AP Horticulture University with farmers unions, farmers, NGOs and other concerned
people on the decision on bt brinjal. Earlier, Govt had appointed a three member expert committee with two vice chancellors Dr. Raghava Reddy of Agri. University and Dr. Shikamani of Horticulture University and Sri. Pankaj Diwedi, IAS, Agri Production Commissioner.

The committee has unanimously recommended to State govt that Bt brinjal is not needed as there are several good varieties already under cultivation and the safety issues are still under question and all the studies need to be done again against best varieties and technologies.

In today's meeting Dr. Anandkumar (of IARI New Delhi) made a "wonderful" presentation obviously expressing his intent to sell bt brinjal and made my job easier to say these men are the regulator (Several people including a scientist from agri university said he looked more like a salesman than a scientist or a regulator).

All the leaders from farmers unions dismissed the claims by Dr. Anandkumar and said they have seen several problems with bt cotton. The farmers from several districts also raised the issues very well.
Prof Purushottam Reddy opened the discussion saying environment concerns are more imp than yield or any thing else. AP Rytusangam (both CPI and CPM), AP Shepherds union, Telugu Rytu, AP kisan cell said completely NO. CIFA representative,who earlier on many occassions opposed bt cotton/bt brinjal, said technology should not be opposed just because it is developed by MNCs if it has problems we need to do proper testing.

I could get some 15 min times after lunch for my presentation. 

Surprise came with Vice Chancellor of Horticulture university who said there is no need for such technologies in brinjal. He said we should have a clear Environment Risk Assessment system in place and test against and do proper risk assessment if a relevance is established in any case. Both vice chancellors requested farmers unions to give in writing to Jairam Ramesh which will strengthen their report.

1 comment:

witan said...

Here is an excerpt from an old news report [PTI news, The Times of India, Tuesday, 10 December 1996] "DBT says IARI's field trials with a transgenic brinjal, carrying the toxin gene of Bacillus thuringiensis, violates safety guidelines which prohibit open field experiment of any transgenic crop without a permit from the DBT. The DBT advisor P.K. Ghosh said, henceforth DBT would be strict in dealing with scientists who ignored safety guidelines."
Soon afterwards (in 1997), Bt-Brinjal crop that was being grown in IARI's experimental field was destroyed under govt orders. While I am NOT AT ALL a supporter of Bt-brinjal, I must point out that the 1997 action was the outcome of the pressure exerted by Monsanto which was wanted to kill indigenous efforts in biotechnology. But now, GEAC has "approved" Bt-Brinjal, because it is made by Monsanto-Mahyco. The minister Jairam Ramesh has ordered a "moratorium", but it would appear he was forced by circumstances to take that "bold" decision. However, Mr Ramesh is committing a mistake by including Swaminathan in the group of "experts" he is going to consult for further action. Swaminathan is not -- has never been -- an expert on biotechnology or on safety of GM foor, or on environment. Besides, during his official career he was mired in controversies (to use a euphemism) e.g., Sharbati Sonora, and "The Great Gene Robbery".