GM Free Cymru

BT Brinjal -- science reasserts itself

Press release from GM-Free Cymru 9 February 2010

GM-Free Cymru has welcomed today's decision by the Indian Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, to block the commercialization of BT brinjal, a key food crop which has been genetically modified by Monsanto. He announced a moratorium until "independent scientific studies establish to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals the safety of the product from the point of view of its long term impact on human health and environment" -- and he warned that this was a real rejection on scientific grounds, and not just a delayed acceptance.

The announcement, eagerly awaited across India and in many other parts of the world, followed weeks of protests and demonstrations across India, as one state after another declared its opposition to the commercialization of BT brinjal in the absence of convincing scientific evidence that it was safe. The GM variety had in fact been given "approval" by the country's Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee (GEAC), the country's bio-technology regulator, in October of last year. It would have become the first GM food crop in India -- and it was of course also backed by commercial and industrial interests, and by the country's Agriculture Minister.

Inevitably, the Indian biotechnology industry and Monsanto spokesmen have already damned Minister Ramesh's decision as "a victory for hysteria over science" -- but if one reads the Minister's careful statement it is clear that his main concerns were actually based on science. He pointed out the deficiencies (he might have mentioned scientific fraud, but he was too polite) of the supporting dossiers submitted by Monsanto when it applied for consent for commercialization, and also the shambles within the Indian regulatory body, GEAC. He also clearly took on board the scientific assessments of scientists from abroad -- including Prof Jack Heinemann, Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini, and Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, all of whom found that the BT brinjal risk assessments were deficient. The Minister decided that the only prudent course of action, in the circumstances, was to impose a moratorium. And he even indicated his disdain for GEAC be re-naming it the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, replacing the word "approvals" which has until now been in its name. He has further demanded an overhaul of the Committee and of its working procedures, so as to ensure that future GM applications are scrutinised properly, by competent scientists who think of safety first and commercial interests second.

Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "We welcome this news from India, and applaud those who have worked hard for years to expose the corruption of the regulatory system and the deficiencies of the supposedly "scientific" GM dossiers which are placed before GEAC. Monsanto and the other GM corporations have had it all their own way until now, helped by complacent and compliant regulators in many countries. What we see here is the reassertion of science -- and the GM industry worldwide will not be best pleased.

"Now we wonder whether there are any other Environment Ministers in the world who have the courage -- and the respect for good science -- to go against the advice of their feeble advisory committees and their regulatory bodies and to halt GM projects which are obviously deeply flawed. Mr Benn, are you listening?"



Dr Brian John GM-Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470


India puts moratorium on Bt-Brinjal India

Blooms News Service, 9 Feb 2010

New Delhi, Feb 9 (IBNS) Faced with huge outcry of scientists, greens and farmers, India on Tuesday put a moratorium on release of the genetically modified Bt-Brinjal after several public consultations by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh across the country.

Ramesh told an eagerly awaited press conference here that after studying long term impact of the GM crop only a decision can be taken.

“It has been a difficult decision to take. I had to balance science and society, producer and consumer, centre and state,” Jairam Ramesh said.

“As a responsible minister I had to take a considered decision. It is responsible to science, it is responsive to society,” he said.

“There is no overriding urgency to introduce Bt-Brinjal,” he added.

In a statement he said: “It is my duty to adopt a cautious precautionary principle based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt-Brinjal till such time independent scientific studies establish to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals the safety of the product from the point of view of its long term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.”

He said: “A moratorium implies rejection of this particular case of release for the time being; it does not , in any way, mean conditional acceptance. This should be understood.”