New Delhi, 20/11/2009: Responding to the introduction of Bt Brinjal in the country for public discussion by Jairam Ramesh, the Union Environment Minister, the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH), Jawaharlal Nehru University has sent a letter to the Union Minister saying, “We believe that there are serious issues of safety that are not yet addressed through long term studies. There is some data that these crops could be allergy- inducing, and indeed that they might be mutagenic. It is for these reasons that in the European Union but major countries have a restrictive regulatory regime. Countries in EU have a precautionary approach towards GM crops and major countries like Germany, France, Hungary, Greece etc has a ban on their cultivation.”
CSMCH took cognizance of the reports suggesting that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has decided to approve the environmental release of Bt Brinjal from Monsanto/Mahyco in India which would for all purposes permit the use of transgenic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and products for edible purposes.
The letter notes that CSMCH is seriously troubled with this move. The letter says, “ First of all, this is entirely unnecessary from a public health perspective, indeed undesirable. The argument that Bt brinjal would not require pesticides is dissembling. There are other, better, pest management methods like non pesticidal management that we need to utilize.”
It refers to “serious methodological flaws in the studies that have been carried out, not to mention ethical ones.”
It takes note of the “profound conflict of interest issues involved in the studies carried out in India. The companies that stand to gain by the introduction of these crops into the market were the sponsors of the studies. This is entirely unacceptable.”
The Prof Mohan Rao, Chairperson, CSMCH says, “There has not been adequate assessment of the ecological consequences of the introduction of this food crop. These concerns regarding the health and environmental risks associated with GM crops are too serious to be disregarded. Given our retailing structure, labeling is impossible in India and contamination is inevitable. Introduction of GM crops would kill the choice of the consumer."
The letter concludes saying that “this policy move is entirely unnecessary, has not been transparent and is potentially injurious to public health. We believe there should be a moratorium on such technologies till their safety both to human beings and the environment is proven.”
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