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Verdict on Bt-brinjal – Reactions

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 20:47 IST

Agitation against Bt Brinjal was well-orchestrated: Monsanto official

Bangalore: A former senior Monsanto official today said he wasn't surprised by the government's moratorium on commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal, noting that the agitation against the genetically-modified variety of the vegetable was "well-orchestrated, loud and united".

"I am not surprised by the decision of the environment minister," former head of city-based Monsanto Research Centre TM Manjunath told PTI.

"The agitation against Bt Brinjal was so demonstrative, well-orchestrated, loud and united as compared to lacklustre and hesitant efforts by most of the protagonists," he said.

A US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed. It introduced genetically modified cotton in India in 2002.

Manjunath said if the industry and scientists had put in more efforts towards creating awareness about the safety and benefits of the biotech products, the impact would have been different.

According to him, the Bt gene, cryIAC, that has been deployed in Bt Brinjal is almost the same as in Bt cotton that had earlier undergone and satisfied extensive biosafety tests as per international standards in several countries such as the USA, Argentina, Australia, China as well as India.

"Bt cotton has been under commercial cultivation on millions of acres year after year since its regulatory approval in the USA and other countries since 1996 and in India since 2002," he said.

Bt cotton has not caused any scientifically proven adverse effects on humans, animals or environment, Manjunath said. "Bt Brinjal was also subjected to similar tests for 8-9 years in India and found to be safe by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)," he said.

"It is difficult to understand what further tests will be prescribed, who will conduct it and how". In case the new tests reveal that Bt brinjal is safe, the opponents should give an undertaking that they would gracefully accept the result and stop their agitations against any further Bt crops, Manjunath said.

Meanwhile, former president of Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises and managing director of Metahelix Life Sciences, KK Narayanan, termed the Government decision as "unfortunate".

"The real losers are not just scientists who were responsibly developing technology for the last many years, but actually farmers who could have enormously benefited," he said.

"The environment minister Jairam Ramesh has given himself to sentiments rather than science and scientific logic," Narayanan said. "He has buckled under political pressure rather than seeing scientific reasoning".