Friday, November 20, 2009
Bengal puts Bt Brinjal on the backburner
Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay Posted online: Friday , Nov 20, 2009 at 0314 hrs
Kolkata : Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has virtually said no to the commercial production of Bt Brinjal in the state.
In a letter to Union Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh, the chief minister spelt out the problems in growing GM brinjal and said that he would consult some of the members of the state’s erstwhile agriculture commission on this matter.
Earlier, in a letter to Bhattacharjee on November 10, Ramesh had sought to know the stand of the state government on the issue.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Centre has approved the commercial production of Bt Brinjal.
The CPM’s farmers’ wing, Krishak Sabha, has already objected to the proposal.
“There are clear reasons to be concerned about commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal. One of the worries is about ‘gene pills’ or the contamination of the land races by the engineered variety. This means that it has potential to threaten bio-diversity, destabilise important ecosystems, and limit the future agricultural possibilities in a region,” the chief minister said in his letter.
The chief minister also raised questions on the impact of GM crops on human health. “There remain vital questions of the impact of GM crops on human health, particularly when genetic engineering introduces the possibilities of physiologic or bio-chemical effects on target varieties. The current generations of available crops also raises concerns linked to pesticide use as BT crops are designed to internally create their own pesticides. While in the short run one may expect some decrease in use of pesticides, in the long run it may not be very effective,” Bhattacharjee said.
He also said that in developed countries people have a choice between GM food and non-GM food. “In the markets of those countries, the GM food is kept aside and people have a choice of not buying them. But in our retail markets people will be left with no choice,” the chief minister said.
Bhattacharjee also raised concerns about the economics of using GM crops in developing countries. “The commercial producers of Bt Brinjal seeds claim that poor farmers will benefit from cultivation of that crop through higher productivity, but in reality it may not be so in the long run. The farmers may not only become dependent on the monopoly supplier for the seeds but also for other inputs as 98 per cent of the world GM seed market is controlled only by a few companies,” the chief minister added.