Orissa joins other states in banning engineered brinjal

Even before genetically engineered Bt brinjal gets the centre's approval for its commercial use, the Orissa government has joined other states in declaring that it will not allow the GM (genetically modified) variety to be planted in the state.

Recently, other states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Chhatisgarh too announced a boycott of the new variety, which has got tentative approval from a centrally-controlled agency.

Orissa agriculture minister Damodar Rout said on Saturday that the state has no plans to go for Bt brinjal, adding that this decision had been communicated to union environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

''We have sought the opinion of the seven brinjal-producing states, and, among these, Orissa and Bihar are opposed to the introduction of Bt brinjal on a commercial basis,'' the environment minister said at a public consultative meeting on Bt brinjal in Bhubaneshwar.

Farmers in the state staged a protest on Saturday against the introduction of Bt brinjal, which coincided with Ramesh's visit to the city. Together, Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal account for nearly 60 per cent of the country's total brinjal output.

Ramesh clarified that the centre was in no hurry to introduce commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. ''The country has waited for seven years for the introduction of Bt brinjal and we can wait for seven more years if the need arises. Bt brinjal will not be introduced in the country if the farmers are opposed to it,'' he said.

He said Bt brinjal had raised concerns about human safety and farmers felt medicinal properties attributed to home-grown brinjal would no longer exist if it was replaced by Bt brinjal.

There was a storm over Bt brinjal after the government's genetic engineering approval committee cleared it for commercial sale. But the seeds cannot go on the market without official sanction from Jairam's ministry. (See: Approval of Bt brinjal mindless and deadly, say protesters)