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Parliamentary panel seeks probe into Bt Brinjal

Thursday August 09, 2012 08:32:26 PM, IANS

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel Thursday recommended a probe into the issue of Bt Brinjal, saying that adequate tests had not been carried out and the approval committee was under "tremendous pressure" from the "industry and a minister" to approve it.

Basudeb Acharia, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, said: "The issue needs to be probed as the co-chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) Arjula Reddy was under tremendous pressure as he was getting calls from the industry, GEAC and a minister to approve Bt Brinjal."

He said the probe should cover the period right from the beginning to the imposing of a moratorium on Bt Brinjal's commercialisation by the government in February 2010.

"We are convinced that these developments are not merely slippages due to oversight or human error but indicative of collusion of a worst kind," Acharia told reporters.

A moratorium was imposed on Bt Brinjal by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh in February 2010 following protests by NGOs and environmentalists. Bt Brinjal was being pushed in India by the US multinational Monsanto.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had criticised the move by Ramesh, saying in the long run Bt Brinjal will only prove to be an advantage for India.

Without naming the minister concerned, Acharia said the parliamentary committee has been highly disconcerted to know about the confession of the co-chairman of the GEAC.

According to him, genetically modified crops should not be pursued in India as most of the farmers are small and marginal ones and their interest has to be protected.

Acharia also suggested that an agency, other than GEAC, should examine research reports on Bt Brinjal.

The parliamentary panel chief sought to counter the pro-GM crop lobbies in the country by saying that the targets to meet the concerns over food security could be easily met without the GM technology and organic farming should be pursued to achieve these goals.

He also said that the issue of GM crops should be debated in parliament as there was a link between Bt Cotton and farmers' suicides.

"Lakhs of tonnes of oil extracted from Bt Cotton seeds has entered the food chain in the past decade... we have asked the consumer affairs ministry for its views," said Acharia.

The panel also highlighted the need to label GM products.

International NGO Greenpeace welcomed the report and said it has come at a time when the union government is trying hard to introduce a new regulatory system for GM crops "by the name of Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill".

"The report exposes the serious gaps in our country's GM regulatory system and the lopsided GM technology promotion policies of the government," said Neha Saigal, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India.



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