Ramesh said Bt will destroy brinjal’s ayurvedic value, experts beg to differ

Jairam ramesh

One of the claims Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh made to justify his freeze on Bt brinjal was that the Bt gene would "destroy the medicinal properties of brinjal" which is used in several "traditional" forms of medicine.

This claim, too, is being contested by experts as Ramesh comes under increasing pressure from within his government — the Prime Minister has called a meeting after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar warned against "ad hoc" decisions on GM food that could set the "clock back" and demoralise Indian scientists.

"I have also been informed that Indian systems of medicine, including ayurveda, siddha, homeopathy and unani, use brinjal as a medicinal ingredient both in raw and cooked form for treatment of respiratory diseases and that the entire brinjal plant is used in such preparations," said Ramesh in his written statement while announcing the freeze.

"There is fear that Bt brinjal will destroy these medicinal properties due to loss of synergy, differences in the alkaloids and changes in other active principles."

Significantly, the government's Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), which falls under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, was not consulted on the issue, a senior official has confirmed to The Indian Express.

When contacted today, Ramesh said: "There are different points of view, that's why we need more clarity."

Experts counter his reasoning.

For one, C Nayak, Director General of Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, told The Indian Express that no variety of brinjal is used in homeopathic medicine.

Even in ayurveda or unani, experts say, not more than five "wild varieties" — of the almost 300 types — of brinjal are used. "The brinjal that we eat does not have any medicinal value," said Darshan Shankar, who launched the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions in Bangalore and advises the Planning Commission on the Indian system of medicine.

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