Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal
, widely known as the BT Brinjal, has been in
the eye of the storm lately and has raised a lot of dust for all the right
reasons. While the creators of this strain of brinjal cannot stop singing its praise,
not everyone is impressed.
A genetically modified
strain, the BT Brinjal was created by the Maharashtra - based India's number
one seed company Mahyco
its partner, the American Multinational global seed giant, Monsanto
These companies claim that the new strain is designed to provide high
yields, besides being pest- resistant. This, they add, would prove to be a
great boon for the agricultural sector.
Except for pockets of vested interests there were not many takers for
the BT Brinjal. Mixed views prevailed as politicians, scientists, environmental
activists, anti-GMO groups and farmers vociferously expressed their dissent.
-Technology & Health Concerns
BT Brinjal, like most genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
is a product of genetic engineering
through DNA recombination. Here a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus
inserted into the DNA of the Brinjal seed.This forms a chimeric DNA
which produces pesticidal toxins in all the cells of
the brinjal and provides pest -resistance.
Research has revealed that Genetically Modified Crops
(GMCs), when fed to rats, have damaged
their lungs and kidneys and have proven to be fatal. Other common side effects
in rats include diarrhea, increased water consumption and allergic reactions.
Ninety nine percent of modified crops produced certain types of toxins, the
effect of which, on the human body, is relatively unknown. These crops have even been referred to as
"bio-terror" as they can be quite dangerous.
Bio Safety activists have been challenging the safety of
the GMOs and the GMCs for years.
French scientist Gilles Eric Seralini has warned that the tests
conducted by Mahyco is not valid and therefore could raise serious health
In Oct 2009 the Indian Biotechnology regulatory body --- Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) --- comprising of scientists and
bureaucrats, sought the introduction of BT Brinjal which aspired to be the
first genetically- modified food crop in India.
It has been alleged that the
GEAC was biased towards Monsanto, as a number of tests were skipped before the
regulatory body decided to wave the green flag.
We for Victory
The temporary ban imposed on BT Brinjal has proven once
again that the people's mandate will prevail. Perhaps this episode, which
featured public debates, will act as a precedent to other issues concerning the
well being of the common man.
It will also send a message to all concerned that awareness
is catching up with Indians too and that they no longer can be considered as
the eastern Guinea pigs for Western experiments. Adequate reasearch must be
carried out before introducing these modified products for human consumption.
The ban also means that the poor farmers of this land do
not have to depend on MNCs for their seeds and that food diversity is
The decision to stall the 1st
GMC cannot be seen
as a war against imperialism but as a movement that stemmed from the need to be
cautious, safe and principled especially in matters of public interest.
Way to go India!
Dr. Reeja Tharu/L