Sunday, January 17, 2010

India is the Centre of Origin and Diversity.........

You thought brinjal was one more vegetable with not too much significance in India?

Think again.Brinjal was first found and domesticated in India almost 4000 years ago. India is the Centre of Origin and Diversity for brinjal, as per the CGIAR. Did you know that in Orissa, there are some 226 varieties of Brinjal grown and consumed even now? Brinjal and related species are also used as important ingredients in several ayurvedic preparations. In Orissa again, brinjal is specially recommended as 'pothi baingan'[as a special diet] for convalescing patients.For many Indians, brinjal holds deep socio-cultural significance in their rites and rituals too.

In South India for instance, a wedding feast is considered incomplete without a special dish of brinjal thrown in. Brinjal is the second largest consumed vegetable in the country after tomato and is often referred to as the 'poor person's vegetable'. It is available throughout the year

andproduced and consumed in all regions of the country, irrespective of religion or caste.
It is this vegetable that is now being sought to be introduced in the country in its genetically modified version. Bt brinjal, a transgenic brinjal variety with a gene called Cry1Ac from a soil bacterium inserted into the brinjal, is sought to be taken up for large scale trials all over the country in farmer's fields by the promoting agency, M/s Mahyco. In India, as the history with Bt Cotton shows us, large scale trials and lax/non-existent monitoring during trials could easily mean leakage of transgenic seeds and contamination of the production chain in irreversible ways. In 2001, while large scale trials of Bt Cotton were still happening prior to its approval for commercial cultivation, the Navbharat Bt Cotton fiasco happened and since then, there has been no control over the proliferation of 'illegal' Bt Cotton in India.

Even in limited field trials, minimal precautions for ensuring 'biosafety' [protection of the environment and human health, including other living organisms from the GMOs] are not taken as investigations by civil society have revealed time and again. A Bt brinjal trial farmer in Andhra Pradesh Mr B Ramanjaneyulu of Pandipadu village, for instance, confessed to having sold untested Bt brinjal fruit in the local market in Kurnool town, in blatant violation of biosafetynorms. The farmer's family also consumed the transgenic vegetable in this case.

Why say NO to Bt brinjal

Major farmers' organizations in the country in addition to large consumer federations have already demanded that permission should not be granted to Bt brinjal in the country. One of the main questions they ask is, 'what is the crisis in brinjal production that a transgenic variety has to be brought in? Will Indians die of starvation if Bt brinjal is not introduced in the country?'

It is true that right now, the problem that farmers have in brinjal production is not under-production but of over-production. There are many instances when farmers are having to dump their produce because they do not get remunerative price in the market.

How would Bt brinjal help by increasing production as it claims it would?

( Compiled by Harsh Saxena )

Site Meter