Approval of Bt brinjal mindless and deadly, say protesters

Researchers say it's safe, but the non-transparent manner in which the GEAC tested and approved Bt brinjal has raised many eyebrows

The approval given to the genetically modified Bt brinjal by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has raised a howl of protest from both farmers and environmental groups.

Greenpeace India, part of the international environmental pressure group Greenpeace, has strongly demanded that no approval be given to genetically engineered or GE food crops, as they pose a threat to the health of the citizens as well as the environment.

At he same time, several farmer leaders have sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reject the recommendation of the GEAC for commercial release of Bt brinjal (See: Bt brinjal becomes first GM food crop to gain regulatory approval)

Speaking to journalists in New Delhi on Thursday, Rakesh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, along with representatives of the Coordination Committee of Indian Farmers' Movements, the Shetkari Sanghatan of Vidarbha, the Rajya Raitha Sangha, and the Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangham, said they had jointly sought an appointment with the prime minister to impress upon him to reject Bt brinjal.

Greenpeace says Bt brinjal will open the floodgates for all the 56 crops which are presently undergoing various stages of approval. This is all the more dangerous as there are no laws to label genetically engineered foods, leaving consumers with no choice.

It claims that committee's recommendations have already been sent for final government approval for commercial release. But here, Greenpeace is probably being a little prematurely alarmist. Scientists at the University of Agriculture Sciences, Dharwad (UAS), where the GE seed was developed, say they are not yet ready for mass distribution of Bt brinjal seeds.