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Request for halting Bt Brinjal trials at earliest, as they are against national interest

The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Government of India, New Delhi.

Subject: Request for halting Bt Brinjal trials at earliest, as they are against national interest

Respected Narendra Modi ji,

We at Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) are writing this letter to bring to your notice recent disturbing news of Regulators in the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change in their last meeting of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) have allowed the penultimate stage of field trials called BRL II trials for Bt brinjal Event 142. They have asked six states to make way for trails of this controversial technology. We are seeking your personal intervention to halt these trials at earliest.
These clearances have been given mischievously to defeat the Atamnirbhar Abhiyan or Self Reliance campaign initiated by you to cut down dependence on the foreign players, but also to evolve world class eco-system to develop cutting edge products, for domestic consumption and also for exports. This Bt brinjal also, like in the case of Mahyco’s Bt brinjal on which an indefinite moratorium was imposed in February 2010, is a completely unneeded technology. Pest management in brinjal is possible without the use of Bt or synthetic pesticides and scientific evidence exists of the same. In fact, the yield and production of brinjal in India increased after the moratorium on Bt brinjal which clearly shows that this technology is not needed.

It is notable that Bt brinjal seems to have moved forward in the regulatory pipeline basically because of a deep conflict of interest that some regulators had. For instance, both the GM event developer and biosafety testing person, who used to head National Institute of Nutrition which did the toxicity testing of this Bt brinjal, who is also associated with industry lobby bodies, were regulators when all the initial permissions were given to this new Bt brinjal. There were concerns expressed by several other regulators about the results of the toxicity tests on this Bt brinjal, but these were brushed aside to push this Bt brinjal to the next stage. Now, it is standing very close to consideration of commercial cultivation approval. The biotech industry is at work again now.

We humbly submit that we are not in shortage of brinjal, neither in quality nor in quantity. Plus since brinjal is indigenous crop of the subcontinent, maximum variety is available in this part of the world. There is no point in taking this uncalculated risk. Moreover, the experience in 18 years of BT Cotton helps us understand that the MNCs dealing in the GM crops coax seed companies and farmers to buy their seed, instead of developing their own variant. With this, these MNCs not only monopolise the market, but dictate the price. Experience shows that Monsanto Company fleeced farmers to the extent of rupees 8000 crores, before your government decided to bring down the trait fee on Bt Cotton seed to zero and saving farmers from hardships. Apart from this, this also puts country’s food security in a risk.

Continuing spread of illegal HTBT Cotton

We take this opportunity to bring it to your notice that despite your timely intervention to push the regulators and respective state governments to check the spread of herbicide tolerant cotton (HTBT), the spread is contouring unabated; and the corporate lobbyists are pushing bureaucrats to slow down the process.

On the one hand these interest groups have been trying to shield the corporates, responsible for illegal release of HTBT cotton; with their push to allow HTBT variety of cotton, they are contemplating to invite the culprit company responsible for illegal spread of HTBT cotton, knowing very well that the product is neither good for health of consumers, ecology or for the farmer. In 2002, the Bt cotton’s approval is a perfect case that the regulators were inefficiently checking the crops and then the variant was hastily approved. 

Agricultural Exports in Danger

India cannot willingly jeopardise her trade security by opting for GM technology when an overwhelming majority of countries around the world shun GM crops. Non-GM produce is a niche, safe produce that the world prefers to even pay a premium for in global markets, and India right now has that advantage. This should not be lost by opting for GM crop production and not even open air field trials. The reality is that several countries which have initially adopted GM crops have actually subsequently abandoned the same. India would be unwise if it doesn’t leverage the current strengths of its non-GM farming, and allow our exports to be jeopardised by losing non- GMO tag.

Post COVID, the narrative is changing globally. World is looking for healthier options, not the over-production or GM variants. We, at SJM, fully endorse your call for organic and natural farming. It is time for India to show the world that how we can strike balance with environment as well as with the requirement of our people for healthy living. The GM is ante-philosophy. It doesn’t suit our narrative, neither have we needed it. We want to see India as world’s food basket. But the GM crop, would impact here as well.

We are sure that you will stand with us, to make our farmer self reliant and consumers free from the unhealthy food.

Dr Ashwani Mahajan
National Co Convenor

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