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GM brinjal has illegally entered country say activists demanding stern action

GM brinjal has illegally entered country say activists demanding stern action

New Delhi, Apr 25 (UNI) Genetically Modified (GM) brinjal has illegally entered the country which is not just bio-hazardous but posing a contamination threat to the regular brinjal crop sold to the consumers.

This is the first GM food crop to enter India's food chain despite an indefinite moratorium since 2010 on the commercial release of Bt brinjal for lack of independent studies on bio-safety, long-term impact on human health, biodiversity and environment.

Concerned civil society groups have complained to the government seeking strict action against the seed developer and seller who have surreptitiously sold the Bt brinjal variety of GM crop saplings to farmers in Haryana. They want GM brinjal fields to be destroyed and farmers who were duped, to be compensated.

Apart from lack of bio-safety tests on Bt brinjal which led to a moratorium on its commercialisation, the concern is moreso because there are more than 2500 varieties of brinjal in India which is the centre of diversity for this crop, both domesticated and wild varieties which is likely to be irreversibly contaminated.

The moratorium on commercialisation of Bt brinjal was imposed after a massive public feedback that weighed against introduction of a GM food crop in the country

The moratorium is still in place and has not been lifted since no evidence of safety has been produced by the crop developers so far.

Addressing a press conference here, senior representatives of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said that based on a tip-off they picked up samples from the field of a Fatehabad farmer, tested it using the lateral flow strip method and the sample tested positive for Bt Cry1Ac protein.

Demanding immediate action from the state and the central government the activists said that the seed company had broken the law of the land and should be penalised.

The Coalition has sent samples of the Bt brinjal to the state government and the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests seeking further investigation and the extent of spread and deterrent action against the seed/seedling suppliers.

“This is clearly a failure of concerned government agencies that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country. The regulatory body -- GEAC -- behaves as a promotional body than a regulator and therein lies a major problem. The modus operandi is that the seed developer introduces the seed or the sapling surreptitiously and illegally forcing government’s hand to give permission for commercialisation. This happened in introduction of Bt cotton in India as well,’’ said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal, Kerala.

"The regulators turned a blind eye to illegal herbicide tolerant cotton cultivation while it spread into lakhs of hectares. In late 2017, when illegal GM soy cultivation was discovered in Gujarat and a complaint was lodged with GEAC, the response was quite slow and dangerously lackadaisical. We want punitive action against the brinjal event owner because they are ultimately responsible for any leakage of seeds. As far as we know, GM brinjal with Cry1Ac event (a chimeric gene of Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab) was developed only by Mahyco/Monsanto”, said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat.

Dr Rajinder Chaudhary of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana, conducted live tests of a Bt brinjal variety against an organic brinjal variety at the press conference here before the media.

He said one sample had been sent to a private testing laboratory for further confirmation.

A group of representatives of farmers’ and consumers’ organisations as well as scientists from the region (including Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Unions, retired SAU scientists etc.) submitted another sample to Director-General of Horticulture and of Agriculture in the Government of Haryana on Wednesday, apart from sending one sample to GEAC, demanding further investigations and action.

"This demonstrates a failure of departments of horticulture and agriculture and regulators to remain vigilant about such hazardous seeds entering our seed supply chains,’’ he said.

“GEAC has been created as the apex regulatory body to protect environment, nature and health from the risks of gene technology. We demand a Biohazard Emergency Service, that will swing into action within 24 hours and not the apathetic approach of our regulators”, said Kapil Shah.

In answer to a question about the possibility of smuggling of Bt brinjal seeds from neighbouring Bangladesh where Monsanto succeeded in commercialising the food crop about five years ago, Mr Shah said India and other countries are part of Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, which requires Prior Informed Consent for any trans-boundary movement of seeds/saplings.

"India should put pressure on Bangladesh at the highest level, to ensure that there is compliance, and that their seed producers and others are warned about smuggling into India any transgenic material from Bangladesh. India should also complain to the Cartagena secretariat about the violation,” he said.


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