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Partial release of Bt Brinjal is ‘contaminate and get approval’: Experts
Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
The ongoing debate over the commercial release of genetically-modified crop Bt Brinjal in the country, heated up once again in a recent meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). This was informed by sources in the concerned ministry to FnB News.

According to these sources, 11 out of 16 members attended the meeting. From among those who attended, only Dr P M Bhargava, founder of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), opposed any kind of release of Bt Brinjal, while Prof. M S Swaminathan, noted agricultural scientist, and others were keen to discuss further.

The sources said that it was GEAC, which was responsible to deal with more bio-safety issues of GM crops, and that the committee had decided that the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) would conduct a study so as to reach the final decision on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal.

“The meeting consisted of presentations and discussions with some strong arguments being made that there was no need for further testing of Bt Brinjal. Strong views were expressed on limited release, with testing taken up parallel to it,” one of the source said.

However, earlier the National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM), National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), and department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) had expressed concern over the likely impact of GM Brinjal on traditional Indian medicines. Also, Jairam Ramesh, environment minister, had apprehensions on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal in January 2010.

The sources explained that the meeting reveiwed Bt Brinjal with an “Expert Group” for the first time. Meanwhile, the Coalition for GM-free India also warned and pointed out that the lack of independent expertise and balance in the constitution of such expert groups would come up with predictable outcomes every time, questioning, how could a different outcome be possible when the same set of people who cleared the Bt Brinjal earlier were involved.

Sources confirmed that several GM crop developers and members who attended the meeting in the past were involved this time as well and out of the 11 members, at least five favoured the release of Bt Brinjal in the country, knowing the ill-effects of GM crops.

The sources further informed that if the committee approved a limited release of Bt Brinjal, there would be cases of illegal sowing of such seeds, forcing the government to make the release complete.

“The concept seems to be like contaminate first and then go ahead with approval,” sources said and added that around 11 states had already expressed disapproval of GM crops last year in a written statement to Jairam Ramesh.
 
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