Youth protest release of genetically modified brinjals in market

January 14th, 2009 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 14 (IANS) Around 50 anxious youngsters gathered outside a government office here Wednesday to protest the “indifference of the country’s regulatory mechanism” towards genetically modified food, specifically Bt brijal. Within the next one year, the Indian market may open its doors to a genetically modified (GM) version of the common vegetable. While government officials claim the crop won’t be released without adequate safety assurance, campaigners have asserted in the past that the safety precautions are unreliable.

India is one of the six top countries for cultivation of GM crops. Now the Bt brinjals are in the final stages of approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a government body.

The youth said the indifference had helped propel genetically modified brinjals for commercial release in the Indian market.

They raised ‘STOP’ symbols and started whistling in front of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) office at Lodhi road in central Delhi.

“An independent analysis of Mahyco’s Bt Brinjal biosafety data by professor Seralini, a French scientist, released last Friday proved that the modified brinjal variety is unsafe for human consumption,” Gopikrishna, campaigner for Greenpeace India, told IANS.

The analysis revealed that the Bt brinjal release might present risk for human and animal health.

“Seralini’s study is based on the data generated by Mahyco and was earlier approved by GEAC. This data was kept confidential and was made public by GEAC in August 2008 after a protracted struggle under Right to Information by Greenpeace and a Supreme Court Public Interest petition,” Gopikrishnan added.

The protest was organised by Youth for Safe food, a forum comprising of students, young working professionals and activists and timed to be staged alongside GEAC’s 91st meeting.

“We are worried…after all it’s a matter of food. The youth of the country cannot sit idle when there is a corporate conspiracy to damage our food system forever,” said Radha Kapuria, a student of Delhi University who participated in the protest.

“We have to raise our voices against this corporate fraud,” she added.

The group demanded that Seralini’s report be taken into consideration and the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal be stopped.

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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