Apr 16 2009 2231 hrs IST , Goa
Bt Brinjal, Launch, Transgenic food crop, Companies
By Nayanima Basu
Commercial launch of the country’s first transgenic food crop — Bt Brinjal — might take much longer than expected with the government still awaiting the required data for analysis. Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) had planned to launch Bt Brinjal by 2009-end.
Bt brinjal has been embroiled in several controversies in the past three years over health-related issues. Mahyco is the first private firm in India to produce and market hybrids of cotton, sorghum, pearl millet, sunflower and wheat. It was also the first Indian firm to commercially grow and market transgenic Bollgard cotton (Bt cotton), India’s first transgenic crop in 2002, which was introduced after much controversy.
Bharat R Char, head of biotechnology research at Mahyco, said at a workshop that the company expected a final approval by year end. He said application for commercial release of Bt brinjal seeds to genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) has been completed, though a committee member said it would take more time.
Ranjini Warrier, member secretary of GEAC, said in New Delhi, “It might take one more year to introduce the crop. A lot of data still needs to be collected because trials have, so far, been conducted in confined environment.” He said the government would form a committee in the next couple of weeks, mainly to review various questions raised by NGOs, evaluate international reports on genetically modified crops and check compliance with OECD norms. The committee works under the environment and forest ministry.
The identified areas for growing Bt Brinjal are north Karnataka, south Maharashtra and Goa with the local varieties such
as Manjarigota, Udupigulla, Malapur local, Kudachi local, GO 112 and Rabkavi local. Many NGOs and farmer organisations have protested against Bt brinjal as they felt it was hazardous and does not reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides.
The reporter's trip was sponsored by Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II South Asia, funded by USAID