The Third International after Lenin

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Genetically Engineered
Food Crop Opposed

Press Statement of the Citizens’ Expert Committee on BT Brinjal (via Sanhati)

8 Lenin Sarani, Kolkata-700 013
266/1 CIT Scheme 6, Kolkata -700 054


We express our grave concern over and firm opposition to the decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the central government to approve the first genetically engineered food crop, Bt brinjal, which will allow Monsanto to market Bt brinjal in India. We firmly believe that this attempt by the government to force Bt brinjal on India is a move towards establishing corporate multinational control over our agriculture and food supply, and to expand the GM foods market to India, to the detriment of the health and the livelihoods of our people. The joint Indo-US Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI) is a major component of this strategy. Brinjal is an important and indigenous food crop for farmers in India, especially in West Bengal, which is the largest producer of brinjal (30% of total production) in India. Furthermore, there is no shortage of production for which we need to introduce such a seed. Genetically modified foods (GMF), have been a cause of major concern for scientists, agricultural experts, environmental activists and farmers. In India, controversy has surrounded the introduction and commercialization of the first GM crop, Bt cotton, by Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co (MahyCo), the Indian subsidiary of the US multinational giant Monsanto, which is aggressively developing and marketing GM crops.


A large number of reports now show that Bt cotton has failed as a crop: its yields have not been what had been forecast by the company, and inputs in terms of fertilizers and pesticides have been more than that of non GM cotton. On the contrary what has been achieved is the widespread pesticide resistance of the insect pest and contamination of the natural cotton plant by pollen flow from Bt cotton plants. As a result, now in places like Gujarat and Maharashtra, the only cotton seeds available are of the GM variety, leaving the cotton growers at the mercy of Monsanto. It is no wonder that the highest number of farmer suicides are among the cotton growers of Maharashtra.

The safety of genetically engineered food is not proven, and many countries, particulary the European Union (EU), have banned GMOs out of concern of potential adverse effect on human health. Especially, there is need of extra caution about a crop that will be directly eaten.

The process in which the GEAC approved the Bt brinjal itself shows that it functioned under political and corporate pressure. Dr Arjula R Reddy, vice-chancellor of Yogi Bemana university, Chair of the Expert Committee (EC2) which was appointed to give the experts’ report on Bt brinjal, and co-chair, GEAC had confessed to have been under tremendous pressure from the Agriculture Minister, the GEAC and the industry to approve Bt Brinjal. The chair of EC2 has admitted that various requisite tests on the safety of Bt Brinjal have not been done and stated that without them (the tests), at this stage, we do not know whether Bt Brinjal is safe or not. Some tests have been done only on mice in controlled laboratory conditions, whereas it is known that open grazing on GM plants by cattle, which does not control amount and variety of intake, have led to morbidity and mortality.

We demand immediate withdrawal of the report of the GEAC which approves Bt brinjal, and cancellation of the proceedings for approval. Moreover, as it is a subject on the State List, the West Bengal government should take the initiative to ban the marketing of Bt brinjal seeds and the production of Bt brinjal in West Bengal to protect the livelihoods of brinjal growers and the health of millions of consumers. We also demand total scrapping of the AKI.

Abhee Dutt-Mazumder, Convener, TASAM
Asis Kusum Ghosh, Convener, FAMA
(on behalf of the Citizens’ Expert Committee on BT Brinjal)
Dated: The 8th January 2009, Kolkata
Contact: 9433008117, 9831100464

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