Jairam defends controversial Bt Brinjal decision

Posted: February 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm

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New Delhi: Union Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday defended his decision to put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal and said that he has never been influenced by NGOs in taking decision on Genetically Modified (GM) foods, during his stint as Environment Minister.

Jairam Ramesh said no NGO influenced his decision to put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal, a statement that comes against the backdrop of PM raising questions about the role of foreign funded NGOs in blocking use of genetic engineering.

Speaking to CNN-IBN, Jairam said the wide-spread opposition to GM crops from several states and the lack of public-sector backed GM seeds guided his decision.

"On Bt Brinjal since I was directly involved I can confidently say no foreign NGOs influenced my view. The moratorium on Bt Brinjal was imposed on March 9, 2010. Almost two years have passed. I went though a seven month process of public consultation with scientists, NGOs, civil society organisations, farmer organisations in which 8000 people participated. I wrote to chief ministers. I wrote to 50 scientists across India and the world," said.

"Green Peace a foreign funded NGO accused me of propagating the line of Monsanto during a public hearing in Bangalore. So on Bt Brinjal, since I was directly involved, I can confidently say no NGOs influenced my views," Ramesh, said.

He said his position on Bt Brinjal was determined by the positions of state governments, the lack of consensus among the scientific community, the fact that the tests were not completed and there was no independent professional mechanism which will instill confidence in the public.

"I did not ban Bt Brinjal. I decided lets put moratorium. Lets fulfill all these four conditions and then revisit the whole issue," he said.

His remarks came in response to a question about allegations that some NGOs based in Scandinavian countries funded the protests against Bt Brinjal. His remarks also came against the backdrop of Prime Minister's comments that some NGOs based in the United States and Scandinavian countries were not "fully appreciative" of the development challenges India faces.

Ramesh said as Environment Minister he enforced the moratorium on Bt Brinjal on February nine, 2010 after going through a seven-month process of public consultation.

The Rural Development Minister said that there were four concerns on the Bt Brinjal. "There was no scientific consensus for the need for Bt Brinjal, scientists were divided. MS Swaminathan, the father of the green revolution had also raised questions. The full protocol of tests had not been completed. Unlike Bt Cotton, Bt Brinjal is something you eat every day. Safety and reliability tests had not been completed," he said.

"While the NGOs had a point of view, my position on Bt Brinjal was determined by opposition from state governments, lack of consensus among the scientific community, the fact that the tests had not been concluded, and there had been no independent professional regulatory mechanism, which could instil confidence in the public. That food crop which is going to be ingested are going to be safe for consumption. I did not ban Bt Brinjal. I said let's fulfill these four conditions and then revisit the issue," he added.

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Jairam defends controversial Bt Brinjal decision

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