Bt Brinjal safe for humans, says science ministry (Lead)

January 19th, 2010 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) While the government is conducting nationwide public consultations on whether genetically modified brinjal should be commercially released, the science ministry Tuesday endorsed the product, calling it “safe for all”.
“As science and technology ministry, we support the clearance of the expert group. It is safe for all,” Science and Technology Minister P. Chavan said at the social editors’ conference here.

“Thirty best scientists have cleared it and we stand by it. I am a health professional and let me tell that BT Brinjal is absolutely safe for all mammals,” said M.K. Bhan, secretary in the department biotechnology.

“It’s safe for the human body and it’s safer technology,” Bhan added.

This is the first time a ministry has openly supported the genetically modified product despite protests across the country.

“I don’t know whether people will like the taste or not but it is safe for all humans. Let me also say that adopting this technology will help thousands of farmers,” said Samir Bramhachari, chief of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the apex body of government-run research institutions.

In October last year, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) which is the government’s biotech regulator approved the commercialisation of the genetically modified crop. Now the environment ministry has to decide if Bt Brinjal will be allowed for commercial use. On Jan 13 the ministry started a series of public consultations on the issue.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has now put the process on hold after three major brinjal producing states that account for nearly 60 percent of the produce refused to endorse the product. After West Bengal and Bihar, Orissa has opposed the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal. Earlier, the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had said they would not have Bt Brinjal in their states.

Green NGOs have strongly condemned the regulator’s clearance. Global environmental activist group Greenpeace has said GEAC “mindlessly” gave its clearance “when informed scientists and citizens raised serious concerns on the nature of the safety studies”.

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