HYDERABAD: Is Bt Brinjal safe? The demonisation of BT crops got a push with the parliamentary committee on agriculture in its report submitted last month commenting that transgenics in food crops would be fraught with unknown consequences. But the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that Bt Brinjal is safe.
A voluminous report on the laboratory experiments carried out on the safety of Bt Brinjal was submitted to the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation ( RCGM) of the Department of Biotechnology, ministry of science and technology.
B Dinesh Kumar, deputy director, Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre, at the NIN told TOI that in every respect, Bt Brinjal was found to be safe. “What now needs to be done is open field trials,” Dinesh Kumar said.
However, the problem arises here. In order to analyse the effects of Bt Brinjal in human consumption, it first needs to be introduced in the market. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will then need to allow introducion of Bt Brinjal, at least in a limited way, so that the effects can be evaluated.
When Bt Brinjal was sought to be introduced in the market a few years ago, it led to a controversy. However, on February 9, 2010, the ministry of environment and forests imposed a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. In the absence of scientific consensus and opposition from state governments and others, the ministry decided to impose a moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal until all concerns expressed by the public, NGOs, scientists and the state government were addressed adequately.
Among those actively opposed to the introduction of Bt Brinjal is P M Bhargava, founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, who was nominated by the Supreme Court to the GEAC.
Bhargava who had even argued against Bt Cotton told the parliamentary committee on agriculture that GM organisms could be introduced only after adequate testing was done.
The pre-clinical tests conducted at the NIN show that Bt Brinjal is safe but activists who are against genetically modified crops need to be convinced about the study and its results.