B

acillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, is at the centre of a major controversy in India.

Bt brinjal, a genetically modified strain created by India's number one seeds company Mahyco in collaboration with American multinational Monsanto, claims to improve yields and help the agriculture sector. However, the debate over the safety of Bt brinjal continues with mixed views from scientists working for the government, farmers and environment activists. Environment activists says the effect of GM (genetically modified) crops on rats have shown to be fatal for lungs and kidneys. It is dangerous to introduce these experimental foods into the market without proper research, they say. A study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini says the tests conducted by Mahyco, the company producing Bt brinjal, were simply not valid and raised serious health concerns. Besides the environment hazards, activists allege that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has shown a bias towards companies like the Monsanto. This would be a big threat to India's agriculture with MNCs charging Indian farmers for their seeds. The supply of seeds will be regulated and thus costlier. Indian farmers would have to depend on MNCs for seeds. Bt cotton has already been declared a farce with crop failures and mass suicides of farmers in India. What will be the fate of Indian agriculture, farmers and consumers if Bt brinjal and other genetically modified crops are introduced?

The issue over Bt brinjal gets worse with central government ministers contradicting each other.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar reportedly said the committee's decision was final. Meanwhile, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that "the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee may well be a statutory body but when crucial issues of human safety are concerned, the government has every right. . . to take the final decision." Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan, said he stood by the committee's findings. "After consultations with the stakeholders and other government agencies, the final word will come after February 20 after submitting the report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We assure people of independent and transparent decision over Bt brinjal, it is not going to be taken in a closed room," Jairam Ramesh said. A Ramadoss, Union health minister during 2004-2009, had also opposed the introduction of GM brinjal in India

In October 2009, the Indian biotechnology regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee which is an ad hoc
30-member committee comprising mainly bureaucrats and scientists, gave its approval for introduction of Bt brinjal, the first genetically modified food crop to be allowed in India. In a GM product, the genetic material is altered to benefit the consumer and producer, as it is pest-resistant and promises to offer a higher yield.

The making of Bt brinjal involves insertion of a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the DNA or genetic code of the vegetable to produce pesticidal toxins in every cell." he explained Bt brinjal has not been properly tested for health or environmental safety. this chimeric toxin was not used. numerous significant differences were noted compared to the best corresponding non-Bt controls: Bt brinjal appears to contain 15% less . In an interview with Business Standard.9 per cent of edible genetically modified organisms are designed to contain toxic pesticides whose effect on the human body and the environment are not known. at least the well-known kanamycin. Meanwhile. not companies. Brinjal has been in India for over 4. In feeding trials.Environmental activists have over the years questioned the bio-safety of these products and pointed out that this is a form 'bio-terror' that should be curbed at all costs. Bt brinjal is resistant to antibiotics. If the GEAC decision if approved by the government. We want science to be used for the benefit of people. etc in the country. "Bt brinjal has been modified to produce an unknown chimeric insecticide toxin. Professor P M Bhargava. like rice. Instead. Gilles-Eric Seralini had said. it would also lead to other GM food crops. Bt brinjal will help them tackle this pest in an environment-friendly manner and increase yields and farm income. soyabean. In the toxicity tests on target and nontarget insects." he added. It accounts for half a million hectares of land in India with an output of 8. We need many more tests on the environmental and health-safety aspects of GMOs and it should be assessed independently." "Everything is kept confidential by the biotech companies whose data governments accept without validation. "You may not be aware that 99.000 years. Also. Mahyco said this will help millions of brinjal farmers who have been suffering from the havoc caused by the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (BFSB). Meanwhile. an improper Cry1Ac toxin was used because this control was easier. maize.4 million tonne. the European Union has followed strict norms and countries in the European Union have banned the genetically modified food crops. GEAC's only independent expert. appointed by the Supreme Court said that a majority of the necessary biosafety tests were skipped before the clearance was given.

our science. GM-fed rats had diarrhoea. our democracy. Without public examination and a debate on the safety of Bt brinjal. et cetera. The tests have been done by the safe microbial Bt. this product should not be approved for environmental release. allergies. to avoid conflict of interest. don't find' policy to create deliberate ignorance of risks and use this ignorance as proof of safety. The All India Kisan Sabha has said that there should be no hasty introduction of Bt brinjal without addressing these concerns. and 16-17 mg/kg Bt insecticide toxin poorly characterized for side effects. and produced by the plant genetically modified for this. liver weight decrease as well as relative liver to body weight ratio decrease. It also demands complete transparency from the GEAC and making public the nature of the trials carried out and the bio-safety of the products. Moths and butterflies would die and may led to their extinction. especially in the context of false assumptions made to present Bt. That is why it should not be introduced in our farms and our kitchens without a proper reassessment. They have not looked into the risks that transgenic Bt." Above all. The tests merely show the safety of the organic spray. . Environmentalist Vandana Shiva also pointed out that the so-called safety tests have not tested for transgenic Bt that includes genes for antibiotic resistance and genes for viral promoters. This is 'don't look. higher water consumption. Shiva has called for a moratorium on commercial GM approvals as she said "Bt brinjal is a test case for the future of our food.kcal/100 gm. she said. developers of GM crops should not be engaged in the biosafety testing. don't see. has a different alkaloid content. Brinjal as the only alternative available ignoring the proven agro ecological approach to pest control. itching skins. It may cause diseases like swollen face. creates. which has been used as an organic pesticide for decades. if they consume the pollen grains of Bt brinjal There have been countrywide protests against the introduction of genetically modified crops.

Technology and Ecology. Madhya Pradesh. Technology and Ecology (RFSTE). He said that the central government should clarify whether the move to introduce the variety was based on any scientific finding or assumption. challenging the 1998 field trials and stating that there were numerous irregularities and violations of biosafety laws and guidelines in previous year field trials. Navdanya. Bt cotton has already proved to be a failure. Even then the GEAC have cleared Bt cotton for commercial release by Monsanto-Mahyco. Orissa. Chhattisgarh and Bihar have all indicated their opposition to the Union government's plan to approve Bt Brinjal. farmers unions and public interests groups in India had warned the government that this irresponsible. The Bt toxins produced in Bt brinjal are also present in the other Monsanto products such as Bt cotton and Bt corn.In Kerala. Ironically. rushed clearance would have high cost for farmers in terms of the economic sovereignty and seed sovereignty. What we have had predicted has come true . The governments of West Bengal. they point out. environmentalists and social activists will observe a one-day fast on January 30 in protest against the Centre's move to introduce Bt brinjal in the country. The minister said no study had been conducted on the possible adverse effects of Bt brinjal and testing laboratories had not yet been developed. in spite of inadequate tests of biosafety and viability. The costly Bt cotton is said to be ineffective against bollworms What happened with Bt cotton On March 26. Kerala. Kerala Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Rathnakaran said. 2002. They have been linked to organ toxicity and growth impediments when fed to animals. this permission was granted in spite of an ongoing Supreme Court case. The Research Foundation for Science. filed by Research Foundation for Science. Monsanto managed to get clearance for commercial planting of three varieties of genetically engineered Bt cotton from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Campaigns have also been organised by Greenpeace activists who have demanded long-term tests before Bt brinjal is released into the market.

It .In three major states Bt cotton has been wiped out completely leaving farmers in great economic and livelihood crisis. Madhya Pradesh. The MNCs. The Tamil Nadu government has banned the sale of Bt cotton seeds after it received complaints of crop failure in Dharmapuri district. While Bt cotton is sold as pest resistant seed in India.000 per packet. The MRTPC indicted Monsanto and passed an interim order stating that the MNC is indeed following restrictive trade practices and this had resulted in some relief for the farmers. Bt cotton has failed in preventing even bollworm attacks for which it has been designed. retain the monopoly over seeds and there is no regulation on them. witnessed total failure of genetically engineered Bt cotton. however. Monsanto charged an exorbitant trait value (royalty) of Rs 1. Based on the complaints of the Andhra Pradesh Ryotu Sangham. the heart of the cotton-growing belt in India. A Mahyco statement said. reducing the cost of production. It is the most rigorously tested vegetable with 25 environmental biosafety studies supervised by independent and government agencies. 'Insect-resistant Bt brinjal has been in development for nine years. The failure of the Bt cotton has devastated the farmers since they have spent five to six times to buy seeds of Bt than the normal seed. The farmers of Khargoan district where Bt is a 100 per cent failure are up in arms against Monsanto-Mahyco that supplied these GM seeds and are demanding compensation from the company for the failure of their crop. Bt cotton seeds were being sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 1.200 per packet of 450 gm. Amid the storm over BT brinjal.800 to Rs 2. It has been tested in full compliance with the guidelines and directives of the regulatory authorities to ensure its safety. After the GEAC had given approval to Monsanto to launch its Bt cotton technology between 2002 and 2005. according to the All India Kisan Sabha. it has proved to be more vulnerable to pest and diseases than the traditional and conventional varieties. Not only have new pests and diseases emerged. the Andhra Pradesh government referred the matter to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). Mahyco claims that Bt brinjal is resistant to pests and therefore will need less use of pesticides and insecticides.

has the same nutritional value and is compositionally identical to non Bt brinjal. DuPont. Syngenta. the world's leading producer of genetically engineered seeds. except for the additional Bt protein which is specific in its action against the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (BFSB).' Mahyco collaborates with Monsanto. It sells 90 per cent of the world's genetically engineered seeds. Bayer and Dow -.rule the global GM seeds market. . Five giant corporations -.Monsanto.

Contents [hide] • • • • 1 Cons 2 Pros 3 Bt brinjal in India 4 References [edit] Cons Several studies on Bt crops in particular and GM crops in general show that there are many potential health hazards in foods bio-engineered in this manner. They are known to have transferred themselves into intestinal bacteria too. This is said to give the brinjal plant resistance against lepidopteron insects like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (Leucinodes orbonalis) and Fruit Borer (Helicoverpa armigera). markers etc. a recent study from Madhya Pradesh in India shows adverse human health impacts in farm and factory workers with allergies caused by Bt cotton. the company wants to take up large scale field trials with the permission of the GEAC in 2006-07. Monsanto. With Bt crops. along with other genes like promoters. correlated with levels of exposure to Bt cotton. were also reported.. The importance of this development can be understood from the fact that no GM brinjal has been released for an advanced stage of field trials in open conditions anywhere in the world and that this is the first time that GEAC could be giving permission for large scale open trials for a food crop. Itching skin. organ development and damage. has developed the Bt brinjal and it is being marketed in India by M/s Mahyco [Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company]. GM-fed animals in various studies have shown that there are problems with growth.[1] [edit] Pros . especially during pollination time. immune responsiveness and so on.[citation needed] It has also been shown from studies elsewhere that genes inserted into GM food survive digestive processes and are transferred into the human body. an American company. swollen faces etc. It is reported that upon ingestion of the Bt toxin by the insect. eruptions on the body. ultimately resulting in the death of the insect.[citation needed] A study from Phillippines shows that people living next to Bt corn crop fields had developed many mysterious symptoms. The insertion of the gene into the brinjal cell in young cotyledons has been done through an Agro bacterium-mediated vector. there would be disruption of digestive processes. Bt toxin had caused powerful immune responses and abnormal cell growth in mice.Bt baigun is a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a gene [Cry1Ac] from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into brinjal. It has also been shown that all the Cry proteins in Bt crops have amino acid sequence similar to known allergens and are hence potential allergens.Now.

Genetically modified brinjals have been claimed to be pest-resistant and safe for consumption. to ensure none of it is sowed or otherwise get into the market .” On the same day the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)-Govt of India . “Until we arrive at a political. [2] [edit] Bt brinjal in India On 9th February 2010 the government of India officially announced that it needs some more time to release Bt brinjal.[3][4][5][6] On 17th February 2010 Indian Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday reiterated that the Centre had only imposed a moratorium on the release of transgenic brinjal hybrid. made it mandatory for Companies with any seeds of Bt brinjal. this moratorium will remain. which is a commonly used vegetable.it was further communicated that the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) shall be responsible to store all the Bt brinjal seeds in India. and not a permanent ban.to register the details with the government. Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that there is no overriding urgency to introduce Bt brinjal in India. Inorder to effectively enforce the moratorium on BT Brinjal. In a country desperately trying to provide food and water to an exploding population. [7] . introduction of Bt brinjal could be an important factor in reducing both the cost and availability of brinjals. scientific and societal consensus.