Lobbyists BT-ing the new Brinjal

8 Feb

The recent controversy over the introduction of BT-Brinjal is a fantastic example of how much sustained lobbying can prevail over well documented facts.  The BT-Brinjal has been demonized over and over in print as well as on television.  Some have even called it “Zehrila Baingan” (poisonous brinjals), so they don’t have to bother explaining what a genetically modified crop is to their audience.

An op-ed in today’s Indian Express points out that the Government’s Expert Committee has concluded that use of the BT-Brinjal drastically reduces the amount of pesticide used to produce the crop.  Importantly, for all consumers of the vegetable, the op-ed states that “With around 15 to 40 pesticide sprays required during a season, each brinjal available is a “pesticide bullet”.”

One might always argue that there are two sides of the coin, and that the move to introduce the GM crop is itself being pushed through by multinational corporations.  However,

1.  Nobody has been able to pin-point exactly which MNCs are behind this conspiracy,

2.  Though everyone is crying themselves hoarse about the impact on environment, no one is willing to answer how the current high usage of pesticides is any less harmful.  BT Brinjal substantially reduces usage of such pesticides.

These were the reasons the government stated when it first proposed the introduction of BT Brinjal:

1. Economic loss due to pest damage
2. Extensive use of chemical insecticides
3. Effectiveness of chemical pesticides
4. Impact of chemical pesticides
5. Contamination of soil and ground water

All of these reasons seem to address the question of the use of pesticides, and their environmental impact.

The op-ed in Express points out that,

1.  More than 100 times the amount present in the vegetable has been given to rats and shown to be non-toxic.

2.  The developers of BT Brinjal in India “a private company and two publicly-funded agricultural universities” have been carrying out all the mandatory tests for the last seven years now.

3.  Even if the facts stated above are taken with a pinch of salt, the author very correctly points out that while GM food is not the panacea to agricultural problems, it can at least address the productivity issues.

There are only two conclusions I can draw from all of the above: (1) The group which has the most to lose from BT Brinjal seems to be the pesticide/ fertilizer manufacturers!! and, (2) somebody is actually scared that just like BT Cotton, farmers will actually take to BT Brinjal as well.  Otherwise, why not just wait for farmers to just reject the crop?

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