India launches its first genetically modified crop

Bt brinjal set for field trial, experts warn of health risks

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- with the green light from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (geac), Bt brinjal -- a genetically modified (gm) food crop developed by the seed company Mahyco -- is ready for large-scale field trials and seed production. But the clearance is facing stiff resistance from farmers, environmentalists, and consumer groups across the country, who fear that gm food crops have major health risks.

Of the three gm food crops in India -- brinjal, mustard and potato -- awaiting permission for large-scale field trials and seed production, brinjal is the first one to get geac approval. Bt cotton is the only other gm crop permitted in the country. Mahyco has sought permission for four Bt brinjal hybrids: mhb-4 Bt, mhb 9 Bt, mhb 80 Bt and mhbj -99 Bt, containing the Cry 1 Ac genetic sequence. " The hybrids have successfully completed biosafety trials," says M K Khan, secretary, department of biotechnology, Union ministry of science and technology .

A coalition of anti- gm groups has produced evidence and scientific validations suggesting potential health hazards relating to Bt brinjal. "We need to be extra cautious before going for such large-scale trials of gm food crops," says Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace. "Cry 1 Ac, the Bt toxin used in Bt brinjal, is a powerful immunising agent and actively binds to gut cells of mammals," says Kavitha Kuruganthi, spokesperson of the coalition. "While Cry toxins are known allergens, two other genes -- the aad marker and the npt-ii marker gene -- used in Bt brinjal are antibiotic-resistant. Besides, the cauliflower mosaic virus, used as a promoter (used to activate the Bt gene) in Bt brinjal, is also known to initiate transcriptional activity in human cells," she adds. There are fears that the promoter might reactivate dormant viruses and raise health concerns like cancer.

geac has taken notice of allegations raised by anti- gm groups and asked Mahyco to clarify certain safety concerns. The company is yet to come up with a proper explanation. But Mahyco refutes this. "Toxicological, nutritional and allergenicity studies in public sector institutions have found Bt brinjal absolutely safe. Studies also inform that when cooked the Cry 1 Ac protein degenerates rapidly making it safe for human consumption," says Sanjay Deshpande, spokesperson of Mahyco.

Bt brinjal has been developed in collaboration with a number of public sector institutions like the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Cornell University, usa, and the University of Philippines. "The genetic transformation in brinjal was achieved in 2000 and its biosafety was established by rigorous scientific studies and trials for more than five years," says Deshpande.

Bt brinjal, with its pest resistance capacity, will drastically bring down crop loss and thereby increase the brinjal yield in the country by 54 to 113 per cent, claims Mahyco.

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  • welcome step

    Posted by: Mohammad Farooq Mir | 4 years ago | Reply
  • All GMO / BT crops are harmful to health and environment as they cause cancer and contaminated other Non-GMO crops growing near by. Biotech companies should stop modifying the genes of plants / animals as this will cause human race to extinct.

    Posted by: Sai Prashanth | 4 years ago | Reply
    • GMO are funded by big corporates and government as a money making business with insufficient datas, scientists suspended for speaking up, their researches not approved. Together with the main stream media, these companies are hiding fact away from us.
      We need to know more about this from the right source since everything is corrupted.
      "Make no mistake, this is an irreversible technology. It is no good 50 years later to say: 'We should have known.'"

      Posted by: Reshma Nair | 3 years ago | Reply
  • It is wrong to say all GM crops are hazardous to health. Yes certain crops are found positive. Growing population and to control inflation today GM crops are essential.
    In my wiew the FSA should carry out right awareness through print media at ground levels.

    In the tech world we use so many hazardous meterial in our daily use, lets tried it.

    Posted by: Vinod U Lanjewar | 3 years ago | Reply
  • There some more genetically developed vegetables including rice crop to increase its productivity in the market for a considerable time already in use and since Bt Brinjal has been developed by in collaboration with number of public sector institutions of Agriculture science and has successfully completed bio-safety trial by department of biotechnology this may be allowed to prevent wastage and to prevent use of pesticides which are has more toxicity affect for human life.

    Posted by: Salil Das | 3 years ago | Reply
  • GMO business is done by a network of big corporates and government. It disturbs the nature's delicate balance that has been created since millions of years. GMO might be easy and convenient but at the cost of our lives and especially our kids. Researchers and scientist are suspended on speaking up, their researches are called a mistake. And the mainstream media is helping these corporates hide the truth from us. We should learn more about it from the right souce.
    "Make no mistake, this is an irreversible technology. It is no good 50 years later to say: 'We should have known.'"

    Posted by: Reshma | 3 years ago | Reply
  • 95 percent of the GMO are done to make a plant more resistant to the herbicide, so that it doesn't die while the chemical is sprayed heavily. These weeds anyways are showing resistance now in US which makes them use more herbicide which gets washed away in our water resources, which kills the micro organism and the biodiversity. Or otherwise even if GMO ed to kill the pest, by attacking its digestive system, you are killing that pest completely, again disturbing our ecology, which is like a structure made of playing cards.
    The yield has increased not mainly because of the GMO seeds, but because of an increase in area of land used and irrigation.
    And anyways we are nowhere in shortage of food but whether it is accessible, and that is because of pure corruption.
    Please see what Dr Ramanjanayulu G V, Vandana Shiva and quite a few others have to say about it.

    Posted by: Reshma Nair | 3 years ago | Reply