GM crops: environment ministry proposes, Ramadoss opposes

December 16th, 2008 - 11:00 am ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) The environment ministry might be planning to bring genetically modified (GM) crops like Bt Brinjal to your plate but Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has promised to “continue to oppose” GM foods.Ramadoss, in a meeting with hundreds of farmers organised by his party PMK in Kancheepuram town of Tamil Nadu last week, promised to resist the entry of GM foods for common use.

“The PMK has always opposed GM seeds. As a minister of PMK and as union health minister, I will continue to oppose GM seeds,” he said.

“As far as Bt Brinjal is concerned, it was brought to the country without proper research on its safety,” he added.

According to health ministry officials, the minister has also discussed with top health officials his stand on GM crops.

Hailing the strong stand of Ramadoss and favouring the anti-GM movement, the Coalition for GM Free India has written a letter of appreciation to the health ministry.

Ramadoss, as the letter quotes him, said: “We will ensure holistic research of Bt Brinjal including its health impacts and farmer issues. We will not permit it into India otherwise.”

India is one of the six leading countries that are conducting field trials of GM crops. Now the Bt Brinjals are in the final stages of approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of environment.

If all tests are normal, Bt Brinjal will reach consumers within a year.

“All the tests for GM crops in India are conducted under controlled supervision. If we are convinced by the tests, it may be introduced in a year’s time,” GEAC director B.S. Parashera told IANS.

Besides brinjal, there are over two dozen varieties of rice and an equal number of tomatoes, many types of potato, sugarcane, soy and okra awaiting GEAC approval.

Parashera said that all these GM crops were in the testing stage. After GEAC approval, the agriculture ministry would assess its pros and cons before allowing it for mass-scale production.

In a GM crop, the seeds are made with genetic enhancement to become resistant to pests and bugs but green activists have been saying that this has an adverse impact on food quality. They also claim that the GM crops will affect the livelihood of many small farmers as the seed is capable of high yield.

Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, all countries in the European Union and many in Africa have either banned the entry of GM foods or have imposed strict restrictions on their commercial use.

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