Bt brinjal runs counter to the framework for agricultural development. Critically analyse this statement in the context of introduction of genetically modified crops in India.(250 words)

Mentor’s Comment

  1. Define genetically modified crops and give an introduction of controversy around Bt Brinjal.
  2. Give arguments against the use of Bt. brinjal.
  3. Also, suggest if any benefits are there.
  4. Conclude on the basis of arguments given whether it should be introduced in India.

Answer:

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or
microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not
occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

Genetic modification of crops has been a controversial issue since the first commercial
production of a genetically modified crop. India has banned the cultivation of Bt brinjal in 2010,
but GM crops still find its way into the fields through the illegal supply of seeds specifically in
the region of Haryana, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh where farmers are indulged
in unapproved sowing and cultivation of Bt brinjal owing to its advantages of being pest
resistant, lower cost, and higher yield.

The use of GM crops is contentious, with arguments existing on both sides.
1. An approval to Bt Brinjal will open up the floodgates of other approvals and the GM
industry is very keen on bringing in this Bt Brinjal as the Trojan Horse.
2. Bt Brinjal has not been assessed for its impact on Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM).
3. As consumers, it will have no way of knowing whether the brinjal we consume daily is
GM or not, as all brinjals in the market will look the same. This will be a violation of
every consumer's right to know, right to safe food and right to choose which food she/he
wants to eat.
4. Further, labeling cannot be a solution forIndiawhere the majority of consumption is of
unpackaged foods in the open market and from local mandis.
5. With Bt Cotton (the only approved GM crop inIndia), there are several reports of adverse
animal and health impacts(including animal deaths) that have not been systematically
investigated. 
6. Health implications of Bt Brinjal-No independent research to prove the safety of Bt
Brinjal exists. All decision-making happened based on the crop-developer's (i.e.
Monsanto/Mahyco's) data. 
7. Bt Brinjal also contains anti-biotic resistant genes and poses serious public health
concerns with the possibility of 'horizontal gene transfer'
8. India's the Centre of Origin/Diversity of Brinjal(more than 2500 varieties) and no GM
version of any crop has been introduced in its Centre of Origin/Diversity anywhere in the
world. This diversity- national heritage—is now under great threat from Bt Brinjal.
9. In terms of nutrition, there seem to be some significant differences between Bt and
ordinary brinjal. Many health researchers and professionals, and scientists have argued
that Bt brinjal poses risks to human health.
10. Bt brinjal runs counter to the framework for agricultural development and farmers’ well-
being devised by parliamentary panels and the government’s own task forces and expert
committees.

It will bring down the economic cost of brinjal production in the country. As per studies, the
Shoot Borer and Fruit Borer cause up to 20% damage in the crops. The introduction of Bt Brinjal
would add to annual production and it would be good for farm economy in the country.

Way Forward
 Environmental Impact Assessment: must be carried out by independent environmentalist, as
farmers do not and cannot assess the long-term impact of GM crops on ecology and health.
 The government must detail the steps it has taken since the ban of Bt brinjal (2010) to address
the scientific gap for commercialization of Bt brinjal.
 The government should bring a clear report on benefits accrued by Bt brinjal to the farming
community and demonstrate how Bt brinjal fits in with sustainable farming and biodiversity
conservation.
 Ensure efficient infrastructural and institutional set up in order to ensure labeling of GM crops
and bring more efficacy into the regulatory system of GM crops.
o Mandatory labeling of products from GM crops.
 Unchecked import of GM products should be stopped.
 In order to curb the illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal
Committee (GEAC) must:
o Collaborate with state governments and launch a nation-wide investigation drive.
o Take action on threats of deliberate Bt brinjal and Bt cotton cultivation.
o Investigate and prosecute those involved in the illegal supply of Bt brinjal seeds.
o Organic farming should be encouraged.

Conclusion
The government should go for commercialization of Bt brinjal only after the core and deep
research on the long term prospects and benefits of commercialization of Bt crops in India. In
that context, India can learn from Bangladesh’s example where farmers have been growing the
Bt Brinjal since 2013.

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