Mahyco's Bt brinjal has no adverse effects on biodiversity, says minister

The government today said the transegenic bringal variety introduced by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco), the Indian arm of US biotechnology major Monsanto, has no adverse effects on non-target organisms and is environmentally safe.

"The expert committee on Bt brinjal, based on the environmental risk assessment data, has concluded that Bt brinjal Event EE-1 is highly specific in its action on target organisms and has no adverse impact on non-target organisms, including beneficial organisms and soil micro-flora," minister of state for environment and forests (independent charge) Jairam Ramesh informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

"No accumulation and persistence of Bt protein in the soil takes place and no differences with respect to susceptibility to pests and diseases have been noticed. The introgression of cry1Ac gene has in no way affected the outcrossing potential and the weediness characteristics of Bt brinjal," the minister informed.

"No instances of natural inter-specific hybridisation with wild species have been reported for cultivated brinjal. Therefore, introduction of Bt brinjal is not likely to destroy the country's biodiversity," he added.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in its meeting held on 14 October 2009 concluded that Bt brinjal is safe for environmental release taking into consideration the findings of the review by three high level technical committees, namely, the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulations and two expert committees constituted by the GEAC in 2006 and 2009. The decision of the GEAC on the safety of Bt brinjal for environmental release is based on scientific facts/data generated during 2002-2009 and international experience with GM crops.

The minister said since his ministry has received strong views both in favour and against commercialisation of Bt brinjal in India from the various stakeholders, including state governments, farmers, civil societies, NGOs and scientists, it has decided to hold national consultations with the various stakeholders before a final view on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal is taken.