By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 24: Even as the Centre is gathering public opinion on the introduction of Bt brinjal for human consumption, strangely enough the country does not have the facility to test the toxicity or otherwise of
bacillus thuringiensis or Bt gene.
"How can the Central government vouchsafe for the long term health safety of the people, who consume Bt brinjal, when it does not have a Bt testing lab, in the first place? Brinjal is not a staple food and I suspect that Bt brinjal is being pushed with ulterior motives for introduction of new genetically modified food crops in the country," argues eminent geneticist Dr Krishna Rao Dronamraju, who heads the Foundation for Genetic Research, Houstan, USA.
The Centre is banking on the results of animal studies, which cannot always be extrapolated on human beings. The physiology of human beings is complex as compared to that of animals. Several studies on
animal models have failed when extrapolated on man. Moreover, there's no guarantee that the nutritional value or taste will be enhanced by producing Bt brinjal.
According to Dr Krishna Rao, Bt brinjal has about 15 per cent less calories and different alkaloid content compared to non-GM brinjal. "Bt brinjal produces a protein in the vegetable cells that induce antibiotic resistance," he said demanding a two-year moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal.
Brinjal, although an important part of human diet, will hardly solve the problem of poverty in India. There are other major crops such as wheat and rice, which require urgent attention. The green revolution that was
introduced by Prof MS Swaminathan long ago, is now fading and it is time to look for other methods for increasing food productivity and quality, he said.
The risk of contamination of neighbouring non-GM crops is a major problem. The Convention on Biological Diversity and Cartagena protocol require that any GM food should be pre-tested carefully before
their release for commerical production.
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