MUMBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) – The purple eggplant that Indian shopper Tanuja Krishnan picks out at a Mumbai market stall every week is an unlikely protagonist in a raging debate about whether genetically modified foods should be introduced into India.
A genetically modified version of eggplant, a staple in fiery curries, was slated to be the first GM food introduced into India in a bid to stabilise food prices and mitigate some of the effects of climate change on Indian food crop yields.
Known as Bt brinjal, the Indian word for aubergine, the GM vegetable is able to resist some pests responsible for devastating crops across India thanks to a gene from soil bacteria called ‘bacillus thuringniensis’ (Bt).
The thought of eating a genetic hybrid has made consumers such as Krishnan wary. "I would try it to see if it tastes any different, if it has fewer pests, but I think I would prefer organic brinjal just to be safe," she said.
The moratorium against the release of the GM eggplant followed harsh criticism by environmentalists and farmers who demanded rigorous testing and labeling standards before Bt brinjal was cultivated.
"Stringent monitoring measures should be immediately put in place to ensure that no releases of GM crops happens," said Rajesh Krishnan, a manager for sustainable agriculture at Greenpeace India.
India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) opened the way for the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal last October, seven years after approving Bt cotton, which is now grown on more than 80 percent of total cotton area.
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The sad part is the powers that be will probably win, and the eggplant in American grocery stores will wind up all being GMO Bt nonsense. Who is pulling the strings of the India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)? Any takers? I wonder if any of them are living beyond their means?