A massive public campaign against the introduction of genetically modified Bt brinjal in Indian farming is scheduled to take place at 10.30 am on Saturday 23 January 2010 in Bangalore, South India.The Public Consultation to be held by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (i/c) is endorsed by many including journalists, Greenpeace activists, South Indian co ordination committee for farmers' movements, environmentalists and consumer protection centers.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the regulatory authority for transgenic crops instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests is ready to allow commercial release of genetically modified Bt Brinjal in India. The decision was based on the Expert Committee Report- II developed by Mahyco, the company that intends to release Bt brinjal in India. If the Ministry gives the nod, this Bt brinjal would become the first genetically modified food in India. There is a long list of rice and 56 other varieties of genetically modified foods such as Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, Ladies finger, Papaya, Mustard among others that are awaiting clearance by GEAC.
Leading scientists and many Parliamentarians contend that the expert committee report promoting commercial release of Bt brinjal is biased and has ignored the hazards to health and environment. Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (i/c) Mr. Jairam Ramesh has confirmed that a final decision on the Ministry's approval for commercial release of Bt brinjal would be subject to a series of public consultations across India. The Bangalore Meet will be one such consultation that may be the basis to decide whether GMO foods, like Bt Brinjal, should be released into India at all.
Genetic modification (GM) of crops is done in agriculture under the pretext that it would enhance desirable properties or create new characteristics or develop resistance to specific diseases or pests. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) include crops that are modified by inserting gene/s from any other plant, animal and microorganism. In India, GM technology has been used in cultivation of Bt Cotton, done by using a gene of Bacillus thurengiensis
, a soil bacterium, and inserting it into cotton plant.
Agricultural experts in India fear that GM agriculture could cause loss of agricultural and natural biodiversity, destroy genetic heritage and suppress the growth of indigenous nutritional and medicinal plants in farmlands. Cultural traditions and farming practices that help to conserve traditional seeds will be lost and it is feared that once GMO is introduced, multinational corporations will ensure that farmers totally depend on these profit seeking companies for supply of seeds every season.
Members of the public are invited to participate in the consultation and learn more about the hazards of genetically modified food. The venue for the Public consultation is Good Shepherd Auditorium, Prof. Ashirvatham Circle, Residency Road - Museum Road Junction, Opposite St.Joseph's PU College, Bangalore 560 025. For further details log on to http://greenpeace.in/safefood/