Agri Business

‘Bt brinjal being illegally grown in Haryana’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 25, 2019

A Bt brinjal variety   -  The Hindu

In what could be a blatant violation of environment protection laws in the country, a farmer in Haryana’s Fatehabad district was allegedly found to be growing a transgenic brinjal variety, which is not yet approved for cultivation in the country, activists said here on Thursday.

The crop tested positive to a bacterial protein typically inserted using genetic engineering for protection against pests, in a preliminary dip test, said activists representing the Coalition for a GM-Free India (CGFI). The activists said they have sent the sample to a certified lab for more stringent evaluation.

“They said they have already informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) as well as the State agriculture department. While the State authorities have said they will look into the issue, they said they haven’t even received any acknowledgement from the GM regulator, despite this posing a biohazard,” said Rajinder Chaudhary of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan, a group affiliated to CGFI.

It may be recalled that in 2010 the government placed an indefinite moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal, developed by Mahyco, and called for more independent scientific studies to establish its biosafety as India is a centre of diversity for brinjal, both domesticated as well as wild. But the same transgenic variety was subsequently approved for commercial cultivation in Bangladesh in 2013.

The farmer, whose name the activists did not reveal, is believed to have received saplings of the suspected Bt brinjal crop from a middleman. “He told us that he bought 3,000 saplings paying ₹8 apiece. He planted them on two plots of half an acre each,” Chaudhary said. “This is a flagrant violation of the environmental protection laws in the country. The standing crop in the plot should not only be destroyed, but a probe should also be carried out to know whether more farmers were involved in this illegal activity,” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Kerala-based NGO Thanal, another CGFI member. “The seed firm that has developed the genetically modified (GM) event and also those in the supply chain of these illegal seeds should be punished.”

‘Governance failure’

“This is clearly a failure of the government agencies concerned that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country…. This is not the first time this is happening. Bt cotton was approved in India after large-scale illegal cultivation was discovered in Gujarat. The regulators turned a blind eye to illegal herbicide tolerant cotton cultivation thereafter, while it spread to lakhs of hectares. In late 2017, when illegal GM soy cultivation was discovered in Gujarat and a complaint lodged with GEAC, the response was quite slow and dangerously lackadaisical,” said Kapil Shah, an anti-GM activist from Gujarat.

According to Chaudhary, there could be more farmers growing this transgenic variety illegally.

Published on April 25, 2019

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