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Posted at: May 14, 2019, 8:17 AM; last updated: May 14, 2019, 8:17 AM (IST)

It’s not Bt brinjal, but surely GM crop: Horticulture dept

Minister gets notice

  • Advocate Prashant Bhushan has sent a legal notice to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Harsh Vardhan for allegedly flouting a 2010 commercial ban on the cultivation of Bt brinjal after the Fatehabad case came to light
It’s not Bt brinjal, but surely GM crop: Horticulture dept

Bhartesh Singh Thakur

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13

The Horticulture Department has clarified that the samples of a brinjal crop collected from Fatehabad are not that of Bt brinjal, but said it surely is a genetically modified (GM) crop.

Arjun Singh Saini, Director, Horticulture, said: “The test results of samples collected from the field of a Fatehabad farmer were found negative for both cry1Ac gene and Event EE-1 (two varieties of Bt brinjal). But the samples tested positive for certain marker genes (diagnostic tools for testing Bt brinjal).” The samples were sent to the National Bureau for Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, for testing. Saini added, “The samples are definitely not of Bt brinjal. We have now sent the samples to Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Hisar, for further testing.” The department has ordered destroying of the crop in Fatehabad district. “We took samples from brinjal fields across the state and they tested negative for Bt brinjal,” he said, adding the sample from Fatehabad district was a one-off case.

Prof KP Singh, HAU Vice Chancellor, said the university was yet to receive samples. The department will investigate how Fatehabad farmer Jeewan Saini procured the GM seed for Bt brinjal.

Rajinder Chaudhary, an environmental activist and representative of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, had on April 25 alleged that nine years after India banned Bt brinjal, the GM crop was still in cultivation.

Environmentalists led by him had cited the example of a farmer from Fatehabad district, claiming that he had been cultivating the crop for a couple of years. The representatives of the Coalition for a GM-Free India also demanded immediate action from the Central and state governments. After the group highlighted the case, the state government swung into action and collected samples from Saini’s field and sent them to the NBPGR. The only GM crop permitted for cultivation by the Centre is Bt cotton. The safety aspects of GM crops are assessed by the Institutional Biosafety Committees, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

Bt brinjal has been recommended by the GEAC to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, for consideration for environmental release and cultivation in 2009. But on February 9, 2010, Jairam Ramesh, then Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, put a moratorium on Bt brinjal’s release after a series of nationwide consultations. Saini said, “My family and I have been eating these brinjals. There has been no harm.”

He said he had bought 1,500 saplings for Rs7 per sapling from the Dabwali bus stand two years ago. “I don’t remember the name of the person selling the saplings. I am ignorant whether or it was genetically modified. I have been selling my brinjal produce.” Chaudhary said, “One of our friends wanted to grow brinjals in his kitchen garden. He was looking for pest-free plants. So, persons running a nursery in Fatehabad directed him to Saini. This is how we reached him.”

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