(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 10, 2010
Statement on Bt Brinjal
The following is the statement adopted by the participants of national seminar on 'Bt Brinjal, Socially Responsible Science and Alternatives in Agriculture' held in Mararikulam (North) Panchayat of Alappuzha district on January 2, 2010
WE, the participants of the national seminar on 'Bt Brinjal, Socially Responsible Science and Alternatives in Agriculture' held in Mararikulam North endorse the concerns expressed by the grama panchayat, its farmers and women's groups with respect to the commercial introduction of Bt Brinjal by the central government.
Mararikulam North Grama Panchayat is well known for its innovative methods for promoting vegetable production overcoming severe limitations imposed by the sandy soil and the other ecological constraints. It has also overcome the historical legacy of the drastic decline of agriculture as even a secondary occupation. It has not only succeeded in increasing vegetable production but has also trained farmers adopt organic agriculture and integrated pest management systems. The panchayat is home to a traditional indigenous variety of Brinjal known as Mararikulam Brinjal. As a part of its annual plan, the panchayat has undertaken a project to promote Brinjal cultivation in every homestead. It is at this juncture that the announcement regarding the commercial release of Bt Brinjal came. Worried over the growing concerns regarding implications of Bt Brinjal for the agricultural biodiversity and survival of Mararikulam Brinjal, the prospects for organic farming practices, the threat of multi-national companies like Monsanto monopolising the seeds and supply of agricultural inputs, the grama panchayat took the initiative to organise the national seminar. They were also concerned about the bio-safety aspects, particularly after, the Ayurvedic physicians of Kerala came out openly against Bt Brinjal. The national seminar is part of the larger Mararikulam Brinjal Festival to alert the people to the dangers of Bt Brinjal. The local government, prompted by the practical implications for local development is joining the national policy debate. The seminar considers this event as an important contribution to this debate.
The grama panchayat has stated that it is not opposed to the science of biotechnology and genetic engineering, a very important component of ongoing advance in science and technology. However, given the concerns already expressed it would emphasise the precautionary principle and public sector management of the new technology. The unanimous opinion of the seminar is that the precautionary principle has been compromised in the case of Bt Brinjal and US corporate interests have unduly influenced the decision making process.
The seminar notes that as per the practices
science, a large number of independent longer and medium term studies
needed to consider all aspects of bio-safety are yet to be conducted in
case of Bt Brinjal. It disapproves the manner in which the regulatory
has been allowed to be captured by multinational companies like
Monsanto by the
ministry of environment and forests of the government of
The seminar recognised that there is an
of scientific evidence accumulating with regard to adverse
health impacts. It is therefore quite regrettable that the Genetic
Approval Committee (GEAC) has proceeded with the environmental release
Brinjal without addressing concrete criticisms raised against the
process, its adequacy and interpretation. It also notes that the
GEAC has been provided on the basis of the data provided by
It demands utmost care to be taken in respect
transgenic(s) for Brinjal because
It recognises the concerns being raised with
lack of clarity over the ownership of intellectual property on Bt Gene
biological materials used in respect of hybrids and varieties under
consideration for introduction by Monsanto/Mayhco and its serious
for the management of risks associated with the implementation of
Bt Brinjal. The Brinjal in question is part of an USAID programme
Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme [ABSP]. It has been developed
arrangements made by Monsanto/Mahyco with the Indian research
namely, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research,
The seminar noted that the government had earlier also given approval to Monsanto to launch its Bt Cotton technology between 2002 to 2005 under the belief that the rate of royalty charged would be reasonable. Bt Cotton seeds have been sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 1800 to Rs 2000 per packet. Based on the complaints of the Andhra Pradesh Ryotu Sangham, the government of Andhra Pradesh had even referred this matter to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). The MRTPC indicted Monsanto and passed an interim order stating that Monsanto is indeed following restrictive trade practices.
The seminar notes that the GEAC itself has been transgressing its role as a regulatory body and showing an inherent bias towards big monopoly companies like the Monsanto. It recognised that some of the “experts” in the GEAC have conflict of interests. It also took a serious note of this fact that the GEAC completely ignored the objections of certain experts whose independence and eminence is not in question. It did not want the GEAC to be led by the collective bias of interested group of scientists and ignore the dissenting opinion and strong objections of other experts. Ninety per cent of the members of the United Nations, including European Union, do not permit the use of GM foods. Therefore introduction of GM crops can adversely affect our exports.
The seminar also notes that there has been no
transparency in the discussions in the run up to this meeting and MNCs
violated rules for open field trials. In the case of Bt Cotton earlier,
Pradesh and Karnataka had protested against Bt Cotton trials by
Mahyco-Monsanto. Officials from the states of Uttar Pradesh,
This seminar demands that there should be a
on the introduction of Bt Brinjal and GM foods for a certain period.
this period the government should set up a creditable and transparent
sector institutional structure for undertaking longer and medium term
laboratory and field studies.