Chandigarh, January 28, 2010: Scores of students and Professors from Punjab University came together under the banners – Critique – A Discussion Forum and Vassals of Civil Society to oppose Bt brinjal at the Student’s Centre, Punjab University today. Students brandished placards that read ‘Stop Bt brinjal’, while others marched in a funeral procession for Bt brinjal. Their message was ‘Kill Bt brinjal, before it kills us”.
This demonstration was in anticipation of the public consultation on Bt brinjal to be held in Chandigarh on the 29th January. The Consultation is part of the series of 7 public consultations the Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh is chairing before deciding on the approval of the country’s first Genetically Modified (GM) food crop, Bt brinjal.
Bt brinjal has been produced by inserting a toxin gene, Cry1Ac, from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringenesis [Bt] into brinjal plant using the technique of genetic engineering. Bt brinjal has been developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd [Mahyco], and the producers claim that by producing the toxin the plant will be able to kill the major insect pest in Brinjal, the Fruit and Shoot Borer. Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the regulatory body approved the crop on the basis of the safety test data presented by Mahyco.
However, there is no long term feeding studies to prove the safety of this crop. Independent experts including Supreme Court nominee in GEAC, Dr. Pushpa Bhargava has pointed out that there are several short comings in the tests conducted by the company. The stiff resistance from different sections of the society following the approval forced the Government to conduct public consultations before taking a final decision.
The Public consultations at Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Nagpur saw scientists, farmers and consumers rejecting Bt brinjal. Besides this, eight Indian states – Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have stated clearly that they would not permit Bt brinjal in their states.
Dr. Manjit Singh of the University clearly stated that “Introducing these foods will not only be an attack on human health, but on the entire civilization, environment and ecological diversity we are gifted with.” He emphatically stated that we must fight this in the spirit of a war.”
Prof. Lallan Baghel of the University stated that “We will be writing off the future of the very youth of this nation if Bt brinjal or any other GM crop is commercialised.”
“We are tinkering with the future of our children rather than taking measures to protect them. Moreover, it’s an irreversible process and it is unacceptable to unleash this risky technology onto the coming generations, “stated Umendra Dutt, Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission who was also present at the occasion. There is no doubt that if Bt brinjal is permitted, it will open the flood gates for over 56 crops, which are under various stages of trial across the country.
Students and professors urged the State Governments of Punjab and Haryana to join in their efforts and like other state heads take a position against Bt brinjal. This even as they implored citizens of Chandigarh to join the consultation in Chandigarh on the 29th of January and say no to Bt Brinjal for the sake of food safety and food security of the nation.
Notes to the editor
GM free Coalition is a coalition between NGOs, farmers, scientist and Consumer groups across India.
For further details please contact:
Prof. Manjit Singh – +91 9876725391
Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission +91-9872682161
Shivani Shah, Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India, +91 9986877364