Ramesh rebuts Pawar on introducing Bt brinjal in mkt

Ramesh rebuts Pawar on introducing Bt brinjal in mkt

Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh interacts with protesters as he arrives for the genetically modified BT Brinjal Consultancy program in Ahmedabad on January 19, 2010. AFP

Ramesh shot of a letter to Pawar asserting that Centre has every right to take the final decision on introduction of the country's first Genetially Modified(GMO) food when public safety is concerned, a day after the NCP leader made known his stand.

The commercialisation of Bt Brinjal though cleared by the expert panel--Genetically Engineering Approval Committee--last year has triggered a controversy and several states including leading brinjal producing state West Bengal have opposed its introduction during national public consultations initiated by Ramesh.

Pawar, who is already facing the heat over rising prices of essential commodities and his prophecy on milk prices, had said the expert committee's (Genetically Engineering Approval Committee) decision on the introduction of Bt brinjal will be final and the Centre does not have any say on the issue.

Differing with Pawar, Ramesh said the "expert panel may well be a statutory body but when critical issues of human safety are involved, the government has every right and in fact, has basic responsibility to take the final decision based on the panel's suggestions."
Defending the ongoing public consultation processes, Ramesh said, "You (Pawar) will agree that in a democracy like ours, we have to take decisions that have far-reaching consequences with the greatest degree of caution, with the greatest degree of transparency and after ensuring that all stakeholders have been heard to their satisfaction."

In the letter, Ramesh said he was holding public consultations across the country before taking a final decision on the matter "since Bt brinjal will be the first genetically modified food crop and ...I am well aware of the concerns that have been raised on this issue."
Ramesh also brought to the notice of Pawar his letters to Chief Ministers of six important brinjal cultivating states including West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Maharashtra. "In addition I have sought feedback from over 50 top scientists both in India and from abroad."

He said that by January-end he would wind up all the public hearings and by February 20 he would be in a position to take a considered view on GEAC recommendations regarding Bt brinjal.

"I will then be sharing my final view with the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) as well with you and the Health Minister (Ghulam Nabi Azad)," the Minister added.
As the public hearings initiated by Ramesh continues, Pawar had said on the sidelines of a conference yesterday that "We (Centre) don't have any opinion on it. The decisions of the expert committee on the issue is final. The Ministry does not have any say on the issue."

The GEAC last year had given its nod for the commercial release of the Genetically-Modified brinjal based on the researches conducted by it.

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