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Call to ban Bt Brinjal
Express News Service
October 21, 2009

CHENNAI: A week after the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the biotechnology regulator of India, gave its nod to cultivate Bt brinjal, activists and farmers under the banner of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective staged a demonstration in the city demanding a complete ban on the crop in the country.

According to R V Giri, general secretary of Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations, Tamil Nadu chapter, the introduction of the Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) variety would render cultivatable land infertile. Once Bt brinjal seeds are used in a farmland, no other seed varieties could be cultivated there, he added. “In fact, agrarians will be forced to depend only on Bt brinjal seeds from then on, which means it has to be imported from the United States,” he noted. He said the Bt seed was an invention of Monsanto, a US based agriculture firm.

While one kg of the Bt seed costs Rs 150, the traditional seeds in the country is priced anywhere between Rs 10 and Rs 15. “Our nation is independent as far as agriculture sector is concerned. If Bt varieties spread here, the country may soon become dependent on Western countries in this sector as well,” Giri cautioned.

On health hazards, Giri alleged that people eating it could even become impotent. He wondered why the Centre approved GM varieties at a time when several other nations had banned them.

Anbumani’s call: Former Union minister for health Dr Anbumani Ramadoss urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to place at least a 10-year moratorium on all GM crop environmental releases. In a letter to the PM, he said since the State Governments have an authority over agriculture and health and Kerala and Orissa do not want such crops to be introduced, the Union Government should not take any step violating this constitutional authority vested with State governments.