What is BT Brinjal and why the controversy?
By Sahar Adil | Published: February 09 2010
Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, is right now in the middle of an environmental and health controversy in India.
Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, is right now in the middle of a environmental and health controversy in India. This is a genetically modified strain of the non-GM Brinjal created by India's top seeds company Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company) in collaboration with American multinational Monsanto and stakes a claim to improve the yields many fold and also help the agricultural sector. claims to improve yields and help the agriculture sector. Researchers, environmentalists, scientists and Environmental Orgnaizations like Greenpeace have for the last year been trying to stop the manufacture of this “ninja brinjal.”
Following the mass farmer suicides over the failure of the BT cotton crop many states have been against the use and production of this Brinjal. But the Centre was still adamant on going ahead with manufacture, as it would accelerate yield and will shorten growth time of the crop. Union Enviromnental Minister, Jairam Ramesh has finally relented and said, said there was 'no over-riding urgency to introduce Bt Brinjal in India'.
Milind Sonam at a Greenpeace event demonstrating against Genetically Modified(GM) Food
What People have to say?Dr Harash Narang, microbiologist and senior research associate
at the University of Leeds, who originally pointed to the possible link between mad cow disease (BSE) and CJD in humans, "If you look at the simple principle of genetic modification it spells ecological disaster. There are no ways of quantifying the risks... The solution is simply to ban the use of genetic modification in food."
"Nowhere in the world has a GM vegetable crop like Bt brinjal been allowed. It should be remembered that there is scientific evidence the world over that GM foods cause a variety of health problems including organ damage, impaired immune systems, adverse effects on growth and development and even negative impacts on the next generation. Why are we allowing ourselves to be made guinea pigs in this corporate, profit-driven genetic experiment" actress Amala Akkineni on GM foods
‘The emerging voice in new India clearly does not wish to have anything to do with this unnatural food,’ says Baba Ramdev in 'Poison on Platter' a film on GMOs by Mahesh Bhatt.
“This is a serious violation of people’s right to safe food as consumers are being kept ignorant of the presence of potentially dangerous GM ingredients in the food products. There is growing scientific evidence on the health hazards of GM foods across the world and it cannot be ignored any more. The mandate of keeping hazardous food out of the country should be the duty of the Health Ministry and it should take immediate steps to stop the illegal entry of these foods,” said Dr Mira Shiva, of the Initiative for Health, Equity and Society.
Health and Environmental impacts
- It produces a protein in the vegetable cells that work to induce antibiotic resistance and obviously poses as a major health concern and it therefore is inappropriate for commercialised use.
- Bt brinjal also appears to have 15 percent less calories and different alkaloid content compared to non-GM brinjal and also contains an insecticide toxin. When fed to animals, effects were observed on blood chemistry with significant differences according to the sex of the animal or period of measurement.
- Other effects were on blood clotting time (prothrombin), total bilirubin (liver health), and alkaline phosphate in goats and rabbits. This poses as a major environmental and biodiversity threat.
- Changes in lactating cows were observed in increased weight gain, intake of more dry roughage matter and milk production up by 10-14 percent as if they were treated by a hormone.
- Rats fed Bt brinjal had diarrhoea, increased water consumption; decrease in liver weight, and liver to body weight.
- Feed intake was modified in broiler chickens.
(Inputs from Greenpeace and Rediffnews.com)