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India Puts Indefinite ‘Moratorium’ On Release Of Country’s First GM Vegetable

“India has postponed the launch of its first genetically modified (GM) vegetable, saying it would adopt a cautious approach and wait for more scientific studies on the impact of the new variety of eggplant,” Reuters reports (Majumdar, 2/9). 

“The government’s move on Tuesday overturned an earlier decision by a government committee which in October had approved the commercialization of Bt Brinjal, the eggplant named after its genetic modification,” the Wall Street Journal writes. Major eggplant growing states in India, environmentalists and health advocates had expressed concerns that commercial farming of a GM eggplant would have a negative affect on human health and other factors, including the environment, according to the newspaper.

“The government had said at the time it would make a final decision only after nationwide consultations with farmers, consumers, scientists and state governments. Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, said Tuesday that ‘a moratorium on the release’ of the eggplant has been imposed till the time when ‘independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment,'” the newspaper writes (Pokharel, 2/9).

Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reports that Ramesh “had to balance the technology’s promise to help feed a nation growing by 18 million people a year … and concern that food safety and threats to biodiversity haven’t been investigated.” M. Khadi Basavaraj, dean at India’s University of Agricultural Science, said, “This will delay the government’s plan to tackle food security.” Basavaraj, “who advised an independent panel which passed transgenic brinjal as safe in October,” also said, “It now feels there were not enough tests to prove it’s safe. The government has taken the right decision,” according to Bloomberg/BusinessWeek (Shankar/Abraham, 2/10).

According to SciDev.Net, “The eggplant – which would have been the country’s first GM vegetable – was developed by Indian seed company Mahyco in collaboration with the agricultural technology company Monsanto” (Padma, 2/9).

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