Thursday, February 26, 2009

Revered Udupi Mattu Gulla Brinjal faces Grave Threat of Extinction

Digest this.

The Bt genie will be in your plate shortly, once it is out, there is no way to call it back into the bottle. The problem is once Bt Brinjal enters the market, there is no way you can distinguish it from the normal ones. Your vegetable vendor will never be able to sell you the normal Brinjal that you are so used to buying.

To make matters worse, the GEAC ( Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) the Indian regulatory body, a rubber stamp for Biotech industry has given permission to conduct multi-location trials on Karnataka's famed traditional Brinjal varieties - Udupi Gulla.

Cultivated for its special taste and unique flavour in the Udupi district of Karnataka, these strains are tied to such strong socio-cultural traditions that even today the Gulla Brinjal variety is offered to Lord Krishna on festive paryaya ceremonies. Brinjal and plants of related species are used extensively in Ayurveda and Siddha. The entry of Bt Brinjal will put into question the efficacy of Indian medicinal systems. Brinjal is also documented to have medicinal properties, used for treatment of Diabetes Type B etc.

Tracing out the antiquity of the cultivation and use of Brinjal in India, Ramesh Bhat of the Centre for Science, Society and Culture, Hyderabad, writes in a detailed paper in the journal Asian Agri-History that Gulla varieties (especially Mattu Gulla) are a perfect example of 'plant-God-science' relationship. "The example of Mattu Gulla shows how local farmers can choose a variety that meets their local needs and preferences, and is best suited to their specific local ecosystems. The practices adopted by farmers of Udupi have a scientific basis - both traditional and modern."

Realising the uniqueness of the Mattu Gulla Brinjal, the Karnataka State Department of Horticulture is trying to preserve the genetic wealth by seeking a geographical indication for the Gulla strains. Ironically, the same variety for which GI is being sought by the Karnataka government is now ready for genetic plunder. The University of Agricultural Science and Technology, Bangalore, is trying to introduce a Bt gene into the Gulla strains, thereby contaminating the genetic make-up of the traditional variety. The uniqueness of the Gulla varieties, preserved for over four thousand years by local farmers, awaits erosion at the hands of agricultural biotechnologists.

Why worry about this Bt Brinjal, you may ask. Isn't it necessary for improving production and productivity, some of you might argue:

First of all, there is no shortage of Brinjal. Nor does the Bt gene increase productivity and production; there aren't publicly available studies to check the claims of the companies, anyway.

But what it does for sure is bring India's first genetically altered food crop to your dining table and unleash . It is time you Wake up before it is too Late.

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