India Suspends First GM Food Crop Introduction - Environment Minister Wants More Tests


photo: Kirsten via flickr.

Genetically-modified cotton has been grown in India since 2002, but until today it appeared that the nation's first GM food crop would be introduced in 2010. BBC News and other outlets are reporting that the start of GM brinjal (eggplant or aubergine, call it what you like...) has been suspended, with environment minister Jairam Ramesh calling for more testing and essentially putting on indefinite hold the introduction of any GM food crops:Ramesh said that due to negative public sentiment it was his "duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach."

States Plan on Banning Even If Approved Nationally
Indicative of that negative public sentiment: The Guardian reports that leaders from states responsible for 60% of all of India's eggplant cultivation say they would ban the GM crop, even if approved nationally.

Already, the leader of the state of Kerala has banned GM crops due to threats to biodiversity and "colonization of the food sector." VS Achunthanandan added, "We should be part of a system that will destroy traditional seeds and crops and allow [multinational corporations] to infringe on the agricultural sector." (The Guardian)

The environment minister went on to say that "independent scientific studies" were needed to determine long-term impact on human health and the environment.

Safe or Not, This is About Corporate Control of Agriculture
Which is very much appropriate, but to me the bigger question is the one brought up by the leader from Kerala: What do we want a future food system to look like? Regardless of the safety of GM crops, do we want a world in which our agriculture is ruled (or continued to be ruled as in the US) by large corporations, the cultivation of only a small variety of crops planted everywhere without regard for tradition or local conditions, the continued heavy dependence on chemical inputs?

If the stated goal of introduction Bt Brinjal is because it is more resistant to pests and will increase crop yields, surely in the thousands of currently cultivated varieties there is a solution which won't just lead to more profit and crop control by Monsanto and will actually benefit the farmers cultivating it, rather than just requiring them to buy into the Corporation.

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Tags: Agriculture | Food Safety | Genetic Engineering | GMO | India

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