India Against Bt Eggplant

What does it take to turn a country against patented crops with adverse side-effects? In India, the eggplant may be the last straw. Day before yesterday saw Wide and vociferous protests against this genetically modified Bt brinjal:
From Gopal Ethiraj, Chennai
Chennai, 01 February (

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, on Sunday had to face angry protests of farmers in Hyderabad over a move to produce the genetically modified Bt brinjal in the country. Protests and demonstrations were also held in New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday and Sunday.

He had gone there as part of public consultations on Bt brinjal. Consultations are being held in Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.

The Minister, however, said a final decision on the issue would be taken in 10 days after consultations with all concerned. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had last year given its nod for commercial release of Bt Brinjal and Ramesh had promised additional consultations with farmers’ groups, NGOs, scientists and other stakeholders before the release of Bt brinjal.

Demanding earlier that the government reverse its decision, farmers, scientists and NGOs staged angry demonstrations in Hyderabad and disrupted a public hearing organised by the ministry. The protestors did not allow the Minister to speak at the public consultation held at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) in Hyderabad.

The protestors drew on the strategy and the remembrance day of the man who drove the world’s largest empire out of India:

January 30 in India is Martyrs’ Day:

To honor all the great leaders of the nation who fought for the independence of India and gave a survival to the country , the Martyrs’ Day is celebrated with respect and commitment on 30th Jan, the day when Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, has been shot dead by an assassin’s bullet while returning from prayer in the year 1948.
This year there was an addition to the celebrations:
The voices against Bt Brinjal are steadily growing louder. In a latest movement against the genetically modified crop, people from across the country gathered to observe a day-long fast, on Martyr’s day, protesting against Bt Brinjal.

Basing their arguments on Mahatma Gandhi’s `Hind Swaraj’, crowds protested losing out their `hard-won independence’ to private sector enterprises in the `business of hybrid’. “Our message is to remember the Mahatma, stop Bt Brinjal and protect India’s seed and food sovereignty,” said Kavita Kruganti, member, Kheti Virasat Mission.

In Kerala, agriculture minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran also joined the fast. Crowds also gathered in Bihar, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. A rally was also taken out in Ahmedabad on the occasion.

“We fast to stop insertion of genetic material that makes the brinjal plant produce Bt toxin and because the committee that cleared Bt Brinjal violated both science and ethics,” said Sharib Hussain, a 20-year-old student.

And it wasn’t just students. Everybody from organic farmers to film actresses was involved:

In Nagai district, the farmers led by Organic Farmers Association president Jayabal observed fast at Abiramiamman Sannathi. The use of genetically modified seeds would push the traditional variety of brinjal on the verge of extinction, while farmers would be forced to depend on the MNCs to get the seeds.

On Saturday there was protest against Bt brinjal in Trivandrum to stop introduction of Bt Brinjal and to protect the food sovereignty of the country.

Documentary on ‘Kathirikkai’ by Revathy, Rohini

Film actress Rohini also joined in in the protest. “I could not become part of it in Tamil Nadu, so I thought I will do it here,’’ she said. Rohini, incidentally, along with Revathy has just finished a film on the issue called `Kathirikkai’. The film, intended to create an awareness on the ill-effects of the toxic brinjal, was released a couple of days ago in Tamil Nadu.

The national minister in the spotlight was already under pressure:

Nagpur, Jan 28 : Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has said that several State Chief Ministers have asked him not to take hasty decision on the commercial cultivation of BT brinjal.

Talking to reporters here on the sidelines of a National Consultation Meet on Bt brinjal, Ramesh said: “Chief ministers of states such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa have written to me that there is a need to conduct more experiments on Bt brinjal.”

“There is a need of conducting more experiments on BT brinjal, especially regarding human safety part. They don’t opine that to introduce (commercially release) Bt brinjal is that important,” he added.

He further said it is the duty of scientists to dispel doubts regarding the GM crop.I believe that it is the duty of scientists to clear doubts of people and there reservations regarding Bt brinjal. Such important decisions (whether to commercialise BT brinjal) should be taken in a democratic way and in a transparent manner,” said Ramesh.

Unfortunately for the minister, scientific evidence seems to be raising more doubts about commercial use of this modified food plant. He seems to be geting increasingly flustered in his attempts to defend his position:

Fortunately for those who are opposed to the release of this plant, they have solid strategy, a mass movement, and the example of M.K. Gandhi.

As Nayani Nasa of ‘Youth for Safe Food’ group remarked:

“The government can’t be expected to do anything if we don’t build pressure on it.”

One thought on “India Against Bt Eggplant

Comments are closed.