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Don’t hasten introduction of Bt brinjal: M.S. Swaminathan
Satyasundar Barik . Monday, Feb 01, 2010
‘We must analyse whether risks are more or benefits are more’
BHUBANESWAR: The government should not be in hurry to introduce Bt brinjal until fundamental issues were addressed, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said here on Saturday.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a consultation on “Effective community management of biodiversity in an era of climate change,” Dr. Swaminathan said: “Every technology has its benefits and risks. But it all depends on our capacity to analyse risks and benefits. We must analyse whether risks are more or benefits are more. There should be an authority to analyse the risks and benefits in a transparent way. Unfortunately, we don’t have an authority like that.”

He added: “In my report in 2004, I had recommended an autonomous statutory body such as a bio-technology regulatory authority which is to be led by eminent professionals and has its own facilities for testing — not only going by the company or by the breeder.”

The authority should have its own facilities to analyse long-term chronic effects and allbio-safety aspects, and the sooner the country had, the better, Dr. Swaminathan said.

The Union government had till date not accepted the report, he added.

“Brinjal is consumed throughout one’s life. It’s a vegetable of very widespread consumption. Therefore what will be the chronic effect? Brinjal, there is so much of variability in the country. Will that variability and the biodiversity be destroyed by growing one or two varieties of brinjal in the place of numerous [varieties]? What happens if the resistance breaks down? We would have then lost our bio-diversity. Are steps being taken?” Dr. Swaminathan said.

He added that genetically modified crops should not be introduced in the biological and agricultural hotspots of the country.

Fast observed
Meanwhile, marking Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, a group of activists comprising farmers, environmentalists, scientists and farmers’ leaders observed a fast here to protest the introduction of Bt brinjal.

They said Bt brinjal, which was an attempt by multinational seed giants to take control over the food, agriculture and sovereignty of the nation, should be opposed.