“India is not a guinea pig for Bt brinjal”

The delegation of farmers from Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)
and KRRS met along with other farmer unions and NGO’s and voiced their conecern against Bt.Cotton and and the new Bt.Brinjal which id ready for sale in the Indian market.a delegation representing Coalition for GM-Free India met with the Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to bring up the serious issues of concern with regard to Bt Brinjal. Present in the meeting were two GEAC representatives, who represent the health ministry in the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.
Coalition for GM-Free India, consisting of leading farmers’ organizations, consumer organizations, organic farming groups, women’s groups, environmental activists and members of the medical fraternity today met with the Union Minister for Health, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, to impress upon him that India is not a guinea pig for Bt Brinjal.

The issue assumes importance in the context of the GEAC considering approval for large scale trials and seed production of Mahyco’s Bt Brinjal. India is the country of origin and diversity when it comes to Brinjal and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety specifically asks for special impact assessment in such instances. However, in the case of Bt Brinjal no such assessment is apparent.

The concerns raised by the Coalition include:

–    Health studies worldwide have shown that Cry1Ac, the Bt toxin used in Bt Brinjal is a powerful immunogen and actively binds to the gut cells of mammals too as studies in mice show. Cry toxins are known allergens too. In India too, Bt Cotton is known to cause human health problems, as a scientific study in Madhya Pradesh shows. There are also reports of sheep mortality linked to grazing on Bt Cotton

–    GM DNA fragments were shown to have been transferred to human gut bacteria in the only human clinical trial carried out so far through horizontal gene transfer. This poses serious potential hazards

–    The aad marker gene and the nptII marker genes used in Bt Brinjal are antibiotic-resistant. The streptomycin-resistant marker is recommended not to be used in GM plants used as food.

–    The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus used a promoter in Bt Brinjal is known to initiate transcriptional activity in human cells. There is a danger of the promoter reactivating dormant viruses, raising concerns related to cancers. This promoter is known to be especially unstable

–    Past history with the company shows that it suppresses important data related to health effects. In the case of Bt Brinjal, no independent tests have been taken up. Majority of the tests reflect a serious conflict of interest with the company doing the tests or funding them

–    The agronomic data in the case of ICAR-supervised Bt Brinjal trials are unreliable and manipulated, without any statistical analysis done. There is no information on pesticide use reduction with Bt Brinjal

–    The tests done in the country are inadequate and impact assessment on GM crops including Bt Brinjal should incorporate socio-cultural parameters too.

–    There are many potential environmental hazards with Bt Brinjal, including on the diversity of brinjal and its wild/related species and the corresponding ecosystems.

–    Consumer rights will be violated if Bt Brinjal is allowed into the country since there can be no choices left after that

Most importantly, it is not clear what the need for Bt Brinjal is, since (a) there is no crisis in production in brinjal and (b) there are well-established successful IPM/NPM and organic approaches that could be adopted for pest management in brinjal.

New Delhi, June 14th 2006