Congress backs Ramesh on Bt Brinjal

After union minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh's consultation on Bt brinjal in Bhubneshwar on Saturday, some recent comments on the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) have come in for sharp criticism from scientists, farmers and activists there.

During his second consultation on Bt brinjal, Ramesh had said that India needed an independent regulator on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). He added that there were even plans to convert the GEAC into an assessment authority to consider various aspects of the GMOs, and not only the approval mechanism.

According to scientists and activists opposed to Bt Brinjal, the manner in which the two ministers had hastily backed the GEAC, it seemed the centre had made up its mind to give the go-ahead to the GMOs, including, Bt brinjal, and the time had arrived to go for an independent assessor on genetic engineering and their applications, they said.

Also, activists of the United Coalition Against Genetic Engineering (Uncage) said that the final clearance by the so-called experts in biotechnology with the GEAC would create havoc, especially in a state like Orissa with a large population of marginal farmers. Further, agriculture scientists have voiced fears of risks of genetic flow leading to genetic contamination in other related species.

Meanwhile, the stand-off between union ministers for agriculture and environment, Sharad Pawar and Jairam Ramesh, over clearance to Bt brinjal for commercial use sharpened on Friday with the Congress openly supporting the latter.

While Pawar contends that Bt brinjal has been granted clearance by biotech regulator GEAC and should therefore be allowed to be marketed, Ramesh says the final decision on the issue rests with the government.