‘There is scientific evidence to prove that GM crops have harmful effects’

Amid arguments for and against introducing genetically modified (GM) crops in India, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex regulatory committee for transgenic crops under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, on October 14 granted in-principle approval to Bt Brinjal, the country's first edible GM item to be cleared for cultivation. Dr Pushpa M Bhargava, the Supreme Court-appointed special invitee to the 30-member GEAC, has on various platforms objected to introducing GM products in the country, citing health and bio-security issues.

Dr Bhargava is a well-known scientist and the founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. Excerpts of an interview with Dr Bhargava: GEAC has described the Bt Brinjal developed by Mahyco, partnered with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, University of Agricultural Sciences and the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, as bio-safe material. It claims that before the approval, it was put through large-scale field trials at various locations across the country. Then what is your objection?

Biosafety cannot be guaranteed in a short span of time. It's a long process. There are a whole lot of protocols to be carried out, which were not done in the case of Bt Brinjal. As far as a GM crop is concerned, there are nearly 30 tests to be done before giving it clearance. But only six-seven tests were done for Bt Brinjal so far, which is unacceptable. Brinjal is not our staple food. An increase in production will bring down the price, adding to farmers' woes. No socio-economic studies have been done in this regard. No proper toxicity and allergenic tests have been done.

Those who argue for the introduction of it say that GM variety improves the pest resistance of crops leading to a 50 per cent reduction in yield losses.

Some time back, The Indian Council of Agricultural Research had developed a bio-pesticide technology which had proved to be equally effective and prevented yield losses. There are scores of other eco-friendly and safe practices that are possible for sustainable pest management in crops like brinjal. My problem is when you have options why go for something that has been rejected by many countries.

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