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A Collective Thumbs Down To Bt Brinjal
Brinjal. Eggplant. Aubergine. By any name, it sure is better without the ‘Bt’ tag, or so people in India decided as they came out loud and strong to stall the introduction of Bt Brinjal in the country. And one guess where the seeds were going to come from? From Mayco-Monsanto, the local supplier of these new generation seeds which were touted as being the saviour of farmers – no more pests, higher yields, better profits….you know, the usual hyperbole. Fortunately, there are some issues where the Indian population comes out in numbers and this is one of them…..now if only there were more such instances!
On the face of it, it all sounds so good, so Utopian almost. A perfect world where crop infestation and diseased grains and now vegetables are a thing of the past. The thing is, when one interferes with Nature, there usually are repercussions. However, what might constitute future problems are swept under the carpet – and why not, when the company that has been in the forefront of this ‘humanitarian’ research stands to gain millions?
Let’s rewind a bit to another GMO seed that was introduced in India – Bt Cotton. In 1995, Monsanto came together with India’s Mayco to import Bt cotton seeds into India to be crossed with local varieties. They were made available in the local market in 2002 ostensibly to end the poor Indian farmer’s woes and blow the winds of prosperity across his holdings with this new pest-resistant strain. Unfortunately, while there was so much research that was going on in the government-funded agencies (where did the funding come from, one wonders?), there was little if no transparency when it came to the findings. In less than a year, the crop failed to meet farmers’ raised expectations and there were many suicides across the land, thanks to failed crops. What happened was the growth of pests – Bt-resistant bollworms in fields. Half the pesticides in the country are used against this one pest – and now, we have a resistant strain growing and spreading. The other factor of course, is the fact that these are ‘terminator’ seeds – you need to buy new seeds every time you want to plant a new crop. Which means that you once they get to you, you are chained to the company for life.
Consider this. There are more than 2000 varieties of brinjal in India and they have been grown in the country for over 4000 years – do we really want to wish them all away and replace them with a few ‘robotic’ strains? The country’s educated said ‘No’ and ‘Enough’. Suddenly, there was a huge outcry, snowballing into the Environment Minister’s office overflowing with emails, faxes, letters to stop this monstrous march to what was being termed a technological revolution. The research that had been released by the company was too sketchy and not objective to warrant its introduction without proper research. Till then, the political leaders, some of the newspapers and media channels and the companies involved were singing its praises. On January 30, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi assassination, 100,000 people across the land went on a fast to protest. Sensing a revolution, the Environment Minister put the introduction on hold. No, the danger isn’t past as yet and we should be vigilant. All they have done is to postpone the introduction – indefinitely.
We need to do what Europe is doing. They’ve banned fabric made of GM cotton and they have always said an emphatic No to all GMO foods. How can we base the safety of the rest of our lives and the lives of future generations on research that has been funded by the company that promotes GM technology? How can we expect it not to be skewed in their favour? Awareness is the only answer and the more of us who stand up and say No when we have to, the better for the world. We can do it if we try. And when we do, we can move the world.
For an informative hub about GMOs, head to this one by Sally's Trove.
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