Decision on BT Brinjal in 10 days

Sunday, January 31, 2010
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Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, who faced angry protests from farmers here Sunday over a move to produce the genetically modified (GM) Bt Brinjal, said a final decision on the issue would be taken in 10 days after consultations with all concerned.

Demanding that the government reverse its decision, farmers, scientists and NGOs staged angry demonstrations and disrupted a public hearing organised by the ministry.

Holding placards and raising slogans, the protestors did not allow the minister to speak at the public consultation held at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA).

The protestors, including members of All India Kisan Sabha, alleged that GM crops like Bt Brinjal could have adverse effects on the human body as they have not been tested properly.

They said the GM crops would also cripple the economy and hamper India's national biodiversity as well as self-reliance.

"We have not come here to listen to your speech. We want you to withdraw the decision," shouted a protestor.

The minister's repeated appeals for calm and a debate fell on deaf ears. Police intervened and arrested some protestors to restore order.

Jairam Ramesh later said a final decision on BT Brinjal would be taken in 10 days after public consultations.

"We have not yet taken a decision. The very purpose of holding this meeting here was to hear various stakeholders. I appeal to all to allow public consultations," he said.

The minister had to face similar protest in Kolkata during public consultation early this month.

Farmers, some scientists, academics and members of various NGOs, Saturday undertook a one-day fast in Delhi and other places to protest the government's move.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had last year given its nod for commercial release of Bt Brinjal.

The minister decided to conduct public hearings after a member of the committee alleged all necessary tests were not carried out before taking the decision.

The public consultations are being held in Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.

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