'Decision on Bt brinjal by Feb 10'

'Decision on Bt brinjal by Feb 10'

Surrounded by problem: Union Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh with a garland of eggplants put by protesters who were demonstrating against the commercial production of Bt brinjal, after a meeting in Hyderabad on Sunday. PTI

As his national consultations entered the last lap, Ramesh was gheraoed here by people opposing the commercialisation of the genetically modified food crop.

The protesters from Left-affiliated farmers’ outfits and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch  raised slogans like “Bt Go Back” and mobbed the minister on the dais at an event organised at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture. Those supporting Bt brinjal also raised slogans in support of their demand resulting in chaos.

Six public hearings were held at various cities across the country so far and the seventh and last is scheduled for February 6 in Bangalore.

A final decision will be taken on the issue by February 10, Ramesh told reporters after the meeting. The consultations began in Kolkata early this month and the first public meet was rocked by protests.

Asserting that he is not under any pressure from anybody, including the Prime Minister’s Office or any company, the minister said a fair decision would be taken on the issue.
“Most chief ministers want us to go slowly. They don’t want us to take a hasty decision and they want us to conduct more studies, more tests. Rightly so, perhaps they feel that Bt brinjal is something that we eat everyday while Bt cotton is an industrial commodity,” he said.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee had last year given the go ahead for commercialisation of Bt brinjal but has faced stiff resistance from consumer groups and NGOs.

“Those who are in favour of allowing BTU Brinkley are being accused of agents of multinational companies and those who are opposing it are being labelled as anti-technology. Both are faulty, we have to take the right decision,” Ramesh said.
During the consultations, the minister heard the views of a cross section of people including farmers, scientists, social activists and consumers.

At the public hearing, the minister said the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee should be renamed  Genetic Engineering Assessment Committee, as the word “approval” in the original name gives an impression that a clearance has been given before a conclusion is arrived at.

A bill in this regard would be introduced in Parliament soon, the minister added.

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