Activists cry foul over trials of Bt brinjal (21/8/2007)

Activists cry foul over trials of Bt brinjal
The Economic Times, 21 Aug 2007

NEW DELHI:In allowing large-scale trials of Bt Brinjal, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry may have violated its own June 2007 rule that states that such trials will be allowed only after complete biosafety data has been generated. "It is unfortunate that the GEAC has allowed large-scale trials of Bt Brinjal without biosafety having been cleared and without making the data public. In the process, it is breaking its own rules which were reiterated in its June 2007 meeting," said Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) executive director G V Ramanjaneyulu.

"It is inappropriate for GEAC to have called for feedback from the public on the so-called biosafety data put up by Mahyco and not to share the expert committee's findings in a similar manner on its website before taking a decision on this matter," said CSA's Kavitha Kuruganti.

In fact, numerous questions on biosafety have been raised on Bt Brinjal, particularly on the protocol of tests conducted or commissioned by Mahyco, data analysis and conclusions drawn. Some of the prescribed tests like foliar feeding studies (which have been mandated after reports of animal mortality and morbidity after open grazing on Bt Cotton fields) have not been completed on Bt Brinjal, assert environment and farm activist groups. This was evident from the perusal of GEAC minutes and the fact that no findings have been made public thus far, said CSA.

"The GEAC is shorting the circuits of processes and aiding a company which had not even bothered to follow the conditions imposed on it by the regulators in the previous permissions. Recent information shared by the GEAC under the Right To Information Act showed once again that Mahyco has repeatedly violated the conditional permissions given for trials, including by taking up trials in locations where they were not permitted," Mr Ramanjaneyulu added.

Large-scale trials have reportedly been allowed in 13 different locations, to be led and coordinated by the Indian Vegetable Research Institute in Varanasi and all trials would, it is understood, take place inside the NARS campuses (not in farmers' fields).

Meanwhile, an independent expert committee on Bt Brinjal set up by CSA and Thanal, which went through the all India coordinated research project on vegetable cultivation report for 2005-06 on Bt Brinjal trials, has noted that little additional information can be expected to be garnered from the ICAR-supervised agronomic trials for Bt Brinjal. "It is therefore not clear what else will the agronomic trials will prove," said Ms Kuruganti.

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