Anti-genetically modified (GM) crop activists have raised concern over the recent decision of India’s biotech regulator GEAC to seek information from Bangladesh on the effect and impact of commercial release of Bt Brinjal, and said it is completely “unacceptable”.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union Environment Ministry in its 136th meeting decided to ask the secretary of Department of Agricultural Research (DARE) to request ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bengaluru, to obtain relevant information from Bangladesh.
The GEAC decided this while hearing a request made by M/s Mahyco Pvt Ltd seeking permission for large-scale environmental release and demonstration of Bt Brinjal.
However, anti-GM crop activists termed the decision “shocking” and “unacceptable”, and said it is “ridiculous” that the GEAC is acting as a promoter.
Bangladesh had commercialised Mahyco’s Bt Brinjal technology in 2013. Around 50,000 farmers of the neighbouring country are cultivating Bt Brinjal this year.
The GEAC, at its meeting, also referred to the decision of the government imposing a moratorium on large-scale release of Bt Brinjal in February 2010.
“After detailed discussion, keeping in view the decision of the government dated 09.02.2010 on Bt Brinjal, the committee directed the GEAC Secretariat to write to the secretary, Department of Agricultural Research (DARE) to request ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru to obtain relevant information and data on post-commercial release effects of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI),” according to the minutes of the meeting.
“Further, the committee also agreed that the company may be asked to provide reports of any independent studies with regard to post-commercial release of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh,” it said.
“Decision – GEAC Secretariat to write to Secretary, DARE to request ICAR-IIHR to seek information from BARI on the-post commercial release effect/impact of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh and also to direct ICAR-IIHR to undertake independent scientific study on post release effect of Bt Brinjal.
“GEAC Secretariat to seek reports of independent scientific studies on post-commercial release of Bt Brinjal from M/s Mahyco,” the minutes said.
Reacting to the decision, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, said it is “shocking” that the GEAC as the regulator is acting as a promoter, by deciding to write to DARE to direct IIHR to undertake independent scientific study on post-release effect of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh, when the applicant had sought for large-scale environmental release of Bt brinjal here.
“The regulator wants to do more than what the applicant has asked for. The moratorium decision note was clearly based on concerns related to bio-safety. Where are the independent long-term scientific studies that were supposed to have been undertaken here?” she asked.
“If India starts taking decisions like this, tomorrow we will have advocates saying that we should allow GM crop cultivation based only on the fact that Bangladesh or the USA have approved something in their countries, without comprehensive impact assessment here. This is completely unacceptable,” Kuruganti said.