Bt brinjal revisited


Monday was the fifth anniversary of the imposition of a moratorium on the commercialization of genetically modified brinjal by the ministry of environment and forests, a decision that continues to attract both bouquets and brickbats. This was the very first transgenic food crop sought to be sold in the market, the earlier transgenic being genetically modified cotton. Transgenic crops are those which have genes from some other source introduced into them for generating some positive impacts. The genetic modification in both cases involve the insertion of genes from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, named after the German town where way back in 1911 a scientist first found a moth to have been killed by the bacteria. Bt brinjal, like Bt cotton, demands the use of substantially lower chemical pesticides. Bt cotton has been a runaway success in India, with about a fifth of the yield increase over the past decade being attributed to its use.
The moratorium was called for because of at least five crucial reasons. First, no state government, cutting across party lines and ideologies, supported the commercialization. Second, there appeared to be no overwhelming consensus on it in the domestic and international scientific community. Third, there were concerns that seed supply would be the monopoly—direct and indirect—of one multinational company whose past reputation has been controversial, to say the least. Fourth, there appeared to be a persuasive case for more tests and trials under an agreed protocol and under an independent regulatory agency that would inspire wider confidence. Fifth, India is the pre-eminent centre for genetic diversity as far as brinjal is concerned, which not only comes in hugely numerous varieties but also finds many uses, both of which could well come under threat. A 19-page “speaking order” detailing the background to and reasons for the moratorium was made public immediately after the moratorium decision was announced. This in itself was acknowledged to be an innovation in ensuring transparency and accountability in governance...........Read more
 
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