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article imageIndia delays launch of first genetically modified vegetable

By Chris Dade     Feb 9, 2010 in Environment
India's Environment Minister announced on Tuesday that the launch of Bt Brinjal, the country's first genetically modified vegetable, was being postponed due to concerns over its safety.
Money Control quotes Jairam Ramesh, who has also served as Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and Minister of State for Power, as saying of the delay of the launch of the genetically modified eggplant/aubergine:The moratorium will be in place until all tests are carried out to the satisfaction of everyone ... If that means no start of production, so be it
It appears that environmentalists and scientists have both warned that there has not been adequate testing of the vegetable, whose ability to withstand harsh weather conditions could help ease food supply problems in a nation of close to 1.2 billion people.
The London Times notes that fears regarding the possibility of "dangerous mutations" and "long-term toxicity" persist despite India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee approving the introduction of Bt Brinjal last year.
And so concerned are officials in Punjab, a state in Northern India, about the dangers of all genetically modified crops that they are planning to host a national conference at which their concerns and those of others may be discussed.
According to IANS Punjab's Medical Education and Research Minister Tikshan Sud believes that seed companies from the U.S. are behind the moves to have Bt Brinjal introduced to India. Mr Sud is said to be of the opinion that Indian agriculture has no need to import seeds from the U.S.
Indeed Mr Ramesh has reportedly observed that countries in Europe have prohibited the use of Bt Brinjal and crops like it - BT stands for Bacillus thuringiensis - and China is "extremely cautious" about using crops of that nature.
Declaring it his duty to "adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach" he explained:True, Bt-corn and Bt-soya is widely available in the USA but that is no great compulsion for us to follow suit
However Mahyco, the company which the London Times says developed Bt Brinjal and supplied the information that prompted the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to approve the crop, seems from its website to be an Indian company.
Some of the scientists sitting on the committee allegedly have links to Mahyco and a scientist, Pushpa Bhargava, sitting on the committee has identified that situation as a reason why Bt Brinjal was approved.
Since 2002 India has permitted the use of genetically modified cotton seeds, a policy which has seemingly increased crop returns by a considerable amount.
But it is noted that farmers in India, a country which has not escaped criticism over its efforts to feed its population, are leading the opposition to using seeds supplied from overseas.
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