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Last Updated: February 2, 2010  279 views

The Bt Brinjal Controversy

in: Technology

Bt Brinjal is a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal. The insertion of the gene into the Brinjal cell in young cotyledons has been done through an Agro bacterium-mediated vector, along with other genes like promoters, markers etc. 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). The transgenic brinjal was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the US-based transnational, Monsanto.

Release of Bt brinjal into the environment for food, feed and cultivation may present a serious risk for human and animal health; the GM brinjal is unfit for consumption. That’s the words of French scientist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN). Professor Seralini carried out the first ever independent assessment of Monsanto-Mahyco’s dossier on toxicity tests submitted to the Indian regulatory authorities.

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. GM-fed animals in various studies have shown that there are problems with growth, organ development and damage, immune responsiveness and so on. With Bt crops, a recent study from Madhya Pradesh in India shows adverse human health impacts in farm and factory workers with allergies caused by Bt Cotton. Itching skin, eruptions on the body, swollen faces etc., were also reported, correlated with levels of exposure to Bt Cotton. A study from Phillippines shows that people living next to Bt Corn crop fields had developed many mysterious symptoms, especially during pollination time.

In Andhra Pradesh, studies by the respected NGO, Deccan Development Society showed that in 2003, nearly 2,500 sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields. DDS instituted another sheep study. Two groups were fed two varieties of Bt cotton and the third non-Bt cotton. Sheep from the first two died within six weeks. The non-Bt cotton-fed sheep remained healthy.

It has also been shown from studies elsewhere that genes inserted into GM food survive digestive processes and are transferred into the human body. They are known to have transferred themselves into intestinal bacteria too. Bt toxin had caused powerful immune responses and abnormal cell growth in mice. 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.

Professor P M Bhargava, the founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and a National Knowledge Commission member said “Scientists all over the world have opposed GM foods. Renowned scientists like Rupert Sheldrake and many others have said that they don’t support GM foods. They have written to India saying that it should not be allowed. If despite all this and the public hearing against Bt Brinjal, it is released it will be the single largest disaster in the country”.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who publicly opposed GM foods only months ago — says he will study the GEAC’s report in depth before taking a final decision.

Mr Ramesh would do well to look into the charge by the biologist, Professor P M Bhargava — the GEAC’s only independent expert, appointed by the Supreme Court — that a majority of the necessary biosafety tests were skipped before the clearance was given. That’s itself a strong reason for refusing to approve Bt brinjal.

Bhargava says: “If it is indeed allowed, we won’t let it! It will end up as a third war for independence….We will seek legal action. We can file an appeal with the court, asking them to stop the commercial release of the crop, since Bt Brinjal will not be packaged and will look the same as normal brinjal. This is a processed food and the consumer must know what he buys or eats. So, since this highly processed GM food won’t be labelled, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

GM food crops are not the technology of the future. There are only 6 countries in which GM crop production is significant: The US (54 percent of world total), Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China. Most European countries don’t allow GM food to be produced or sold. The US’s dependence on GM is explained by the huge power that agrochemical corporations wield there. Argentina and Brazil raise GM crops mainly to feed animals for the global meat market.

Our renowned Baba Ramdev, who is seen as the idol of fitness, was very much disappointed with the news of bt brinjal commercialization. He anxiously said, “How can a government make a mockery of its country? GM food can lead to kidney disorder, liver disorder, cancer and physical disorders among millions of Indians. Doesn’t government feel shame to mull over commercial cultivation of GM crop?”.

Protest all over the nation is on full swing. We obviously do not want an agricultural growth on the stake of human life.

  • 1

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    icmradmin on March 2nd, 2010
  • 2

    i have read this article just now and i am bound to say it is the blatant comments like ones in this article that misguide the common man and pits him against science. I admit that pipeline followed to validate effectiveness or BT technology as a whole may not be sound enough to merit large scale commercialization but saying that it can cause cancer and fatal diseases just shows how the review of basic biological reasoning has been conveniently ignored. Though this article is clearly listing some of the concerns but still the overall tone of it is completely biased.

    supriya mathur on November 13th, 2011