Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bt Brinjal in India

Indian Bt Brinjal

in Difficulty

Writes Vinod Varshney

Bt brinjal passes through the same travails in India as was witnessed by Bt cotton a few years ago. Same politics, same NGOs and almost same arguments. Bt cotton got accepted initially through black-market as legitimate approval came much later. However contrary to dreary scenario many NGOs used to draw those days, farmers cherish Bt cotton today. Opposing arguments appear today just a propaganda buttressed by political motives.

It is for everybody to see that Bt cotton proved successful and farmers are happy. Yet same old drama is being enacted again with Bt brinjal.

Brinjal is the first Indian food product which will be genetically modified. Genetic modification goes on always during natural evolution, yet man-made modification is being described as something totally unacceptable. Man-made genetic modificaion in the case of brinjal is tailored to suit our requirement. It took seven years of research in India to make it suitable for commercial use. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the regulatory authority in India, has approved it already for commercial production.

Cost of Democracy

But we have to consult people also in our democratic set-up. Though cost is high as a lot of valuable time gets wasted in generating consensus. But what will you say when voice of reason is not even given a chance to be raised due to political reasons as happened last week in Kolkata when Dr Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of Environment and Forest had to walk out of the public hearing.

Government had rightly announced to go through the process of public hearing in all the seven states which together produce 80 percent brinjal in India before giving its nod for commrcial production. But the very first consultation process failed badly as the opposing groups almost torn to pieces the very spirit of free discussion. They even did not allow any other opinion to be expressed in the Stalinist bastion of India. Though it was not unexpected in Kolkata as Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the Chief Minister had already expressed deep reservation about Bt brinjal in a letter written a couple of days ago.

Anti-MNC poitics is OK, But ......

Great harm will be done by politicizing science. Anti-MNC politics may have its justification but it should not go to the extent of harming our own farmers. Indian leftists should learn from China which started commercial production of Bt cotton much earlier than India and it captured immensely the early benefit. Indian cotton farmers lost many good years of better income.

The trouble in the country is lack of scientific literacy. Much of local language media is not equipped to handle scientific issues. Thus it is very easy for politically oriented NGOs to create confusion in the minds of people.

The country's future is in taking advantage of crop biotechnology and its capability to give genetic solutions to many existing problems. But vigorous attempt is being made to retard the growth of this potential sector in India.

Bt Brinjal May be More Rewarding

Brinjal is a rewarding crop for farmers. By spending Rs 100 on its cultivation, they earn Rs 200. But to get this income they have to protect their crop by spraying insecticides 28 times. This cost them immensely and also enhance pollution so much so even mother’s milk is getting polluted with residual pesticides.

NGOs say the benefit of the new type of genetically modified seeds will go to only seed making companies. This was argued in the case of Bt cotton also, but it turned out only partially correct. It is true Monsanto got immensely benefitted by high level of royalty for the technology transferred, but Indian farmers also made a killing.

What G. Padmanabhan Says ?

Please click the link below to read what one of our illustrious scientist of Indian Institute of Science has to say:
There is yet another interesting story below :

1 comment:

  1. The Supreme Court of India will give a final answer if the scientists of the establishment are not motivated. Today's following story is relevant in this respect: