Activists claim once Bt Brinjal is released, there is a risk of cross contamination of natural varieties
Activists claim once Bt Brinjal is released, there is a risk of cross contamination of natural varieties

Bt brinjal cultivation: Activists call for safe agricultural practice

In 2017, when illegal GM soy cultivation was found in Gujarat, a complaint was lodged with the GEAC.

NEW DELHI: Illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal — a Genetically Modified food crop — continues in Haryana, according to the findings of the Coalition for a GM-free India. 

Based on a tip-off, the representatives picked up samples from the fields of a Fatehabad farmer. A test using the lateral flow strip method found one of the samples test positive for Bt Cry1Ac protein. 

The Coalition is a national platform consisting of farm organisations, environmental and women’s collectives, consumer groups and scientists, resisting entry of GMOs in India and advocating for sustainable and safe solutions in agricultural practices.

Activists demanded the Centre and the state governments should immediately act on the findings and investigate the illegal cultivation of unauthorised Bt brinjal, the extent to which its cultivation is still on, the deterrent action against the seedling suppliers and destruction of Bt brinjal plots.

They pointed out the urgent need to clamp down on illegal cultivation that is going on in various parts of the country. Rajinder Chaudhary of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan in Haryana said one sample was sent to a private testing laboratory for further test. 

“This is clearly a failure of government agencies that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country,” said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat. “The regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) behaves as a promotional body than a regulator, and, therein, lies a major problem. This is not the first time that this is happening.”

In 2017, when illegal GM soy cultivation was found in Gujarat, a complaint was lodged with the GEAC. The response to this complaint was slow, Shah claimed. 

In February 2010, after extensive public debates lasting a couple of months, the Indian government had placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal till the time independent scientific studies established the safety of the product from the long-term impact on human health and environment. The moratorium is still in place as crop developers have not produced any evidence on the safety nets so far.

The activists also urged consumers to be alert about the brinjal that they are consuming and advised them to get the produce only if they are from reliable sources. 

Bt Brinjal is a GM crop created by inserting Cry 1Ac gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal. The insertion of the gene gives Brinjal plant resistance against lepidopteron insects like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer and Fruit Borer 

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