After heated exchanges with the anti-Bt brinjal lobby, Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) Jairam Ramesh at the end of the nearly four-hour-long meeting, said all shades of public opinion had been given a chance to express their views. Now his ministry would take a final decision.
Interacting with media here after the meeting, Ramesh said there was need to maintain a balance between genetic engineering of food products and ensuring food safety and security. He said the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had also projected this view during the Science Congress in Kerala last month.
AdvertisementReacting to the aggressive opposition to a planned government move on Bt Brinjal, Ramesh said: "I am not an extremist. I am trying to take the middle path. All public consultation is now over. My ministry will now take a decision."
He clearly stated the decision over Bt Brinjal will be entirely his.
"The decision over the implementation of the Bt Brinjal will be by my ministry. Agriculture ministry's stand will not weight upon my decision," he said.
"I don't wnat to play to the scientific gallery. I don't want to play to any gallery," he added.
Earlier, Ramesh sparred with an anti-Bt Brinjal protester asking him to seek "mental help".
The protester, an ayurvedic doctor, returned the jibe.
Outside the venue of the meeting, hundreds of angry protesters, some wearing brinjal garlands, raised slogans and waved placards.
Saturday's interaction was the last in the series, on the controversial move to introduce Bt Brinjal. Other meetings have been held in cities like Kolkata and Hyderabad.
Farmers, NGO's and members of various organisations have unanimously condemned the move to introduce Bt Brinjal, carrying placards with slogans like "we don't need Bt Brinjal."
They argued that its introduction would be unsafe, as research conducted in the field was still insufficient. Seed owners would not end up being farmers, but multinationals, they added.
Security was tight at the venue while the debate was on.
"Scientists should not display arrogance while discussing the issue. I am trying to find a middle path, which means (between) anti-democratic nature of NGOs and arrogance of scientists," Ramesh said, when a scientist asked him why farmers were resisting Bt Brinjal while they were open to accepting technologies like mobile phone.
Some farmers, however, favour the cultivation of Bt Brinjal, on grounds that a high yield would spell better economic stability and mitigate the financial problems of farmers.
Scientists stated that Bt Brinjal is still not ready for mass consumption. They said technology and research has to be fine-tuned.