Unproved Questions on Bt Brinjal

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  • 8/3/2019 Unproved Questions on Bt Brinjal


    Unproved questions on Bt brinjal

    The commercialization of Bt brinjal may pose threat to human safety andenvironment. We need experimental proofs forall doubts on Bt brinjal and not answer to

    selected aspects. The government should not brush aside experimentally unprovedaspects. Further brinjal is not a staple food crop like rice and wheat, a delay in which maylead to famine.

    Human safety:

    Regarding human safety, long term studies are needed to assess the effects of mutant

    products of cry2Ab and cry1AC Bt genes. Today, it is claimed that Bt brinjal is safe inanimal models. In due course, over a decade or so the Bt genes or their receptors may

    mutate; in that case what would be the effect of mutants on human health in future? We

    have the technology to produce the mutants that can be tested in the lab. The animal

    studies would give only preliminary information and extrapolating this to humans wouldbe risky. Before testing on humans, how can we harp that Bt is safe for humans. The

    proponents of Bt brinjal appear to be enthusiastic to push this for approval and they will

    be too glad to be lab rats to test on them. They say that USA is way forward in using thisproduct of biotechnology. We followed America during the green revolution. Of course,

    we have produced more, and prevented starvation. But we also ended up with spoiled

    earth and genetic disorders and increased incidence of cancer. On human safety, weshould take lessons from the Thalidomide tragedy of the sixties. Thalidomide, a

    tranquilizer and pain killer was found to be safe at that point of time of release for human

    use. Years later, scientists were perplexed to see the birth of thousands of deformedbabies to women who took this medicine. This is obviously because of inadequate trials

    of this drug before release.

    Environmental safety:

    Before the green revolution, the brinjal borer was not menace. In those days

    pesticides were not available. The massive emergence of this pest appears to coincidewith the use of pesticides. Did the indiscriminate use of pesticides inadvertently wiped

    out the predators of brinjal borer? Or urbanization trans-located these? Or cocultivation

    of pungent smelling crops like chilly and tobacco acted as a deterent to the brinjal borer?These are topics for entomologists and environmentalists. Apparently we have created

    resistant pests as an off shoot of green revolution. Already there are indications of

    development of resistance for Bt. In lab studies it was found that insects that wereresistant to cry2AB protein also were resistant to cry1AC protein of Bt. Once the resistant

    forms emerge, where do we go? To the cousins of Monsanto?

    Though Bt brinjal is projected as a boon, studies show that the it is not 100%

    effective on wiping out the borers. The Bt plants still require chemical pesticides thoughin lower quantities (Biotech News, December 2009). This means we are introducing one

    more agent to destroy our environment. We are told that the Bt technology is used

  • 8/3/2019 Unproved Questions on Bt Brinjal


    globally. Let them damage their environment. Let us not follow the western path and risk

    our environment. We should focus on our national needs and save our nation from

    ecological disasters. Let our biotechnologists develop salt resistant, drought resistantcrops that will not be a threat to our ecosystem. We must refrain from creating plants

    with insecticidal and herbicidal components. Genetically modified plants with herbicidal

    genes will eradicate the weeds, but we will drive the village women (who are engaged inmanual weeding) jobless, starve our cattle (for which the weeds are used as fodders) and

    wipe out valuable medicinal plants.

    Seed preservation:

    Shall we not preserve our indigenous crop varieties so that we can go back to these if

    the Bt products turn out hazardous at a later time? What is the strategy we have forpreserving our traditional varieties? Our ancestors might have sensed catastrophes of our

    crops and appear to have disaster control measures. At the final stage of building temples,

    they have placed seeds of nine important crops (nava dhanya) in copper pots (kalasams)

    that were installed at the top of temple towers out of reach of burglars and insects. It iswill be desirable to access the viability of these seeds so that this method can be adopted

    for seed preservation. The multinational seed companies (MNCs) are pursuing aggressiveprograms for their seeds through various media. Our farmers would be attracted by these

    and forget the cultivation of traditional varieties. There is an urgent need to study long

    term seed preservation strategies because we can go back to these in case our traditionalstrains disappear. If the Bt brinjal is cultivated by the farmers can they make their own

    seeds from their crops? Will these seeds be viable in next generation? Or do they have to

    be perpetually depend on MNCs and their desi brothern who will raise the price once

    they know the farmers do not have alternatives. Can the government have their own seedbanks or encourage the farmers to have their own cooperative seed banks?


    Nowadays, farmers stay away from farming because of non-profitability. In these

    days of shrinking farm lands, we have to try eco-friendly green house farming for theproduction of vegetables like brinjal as done in Europe and Israel. This is not cost

    effective for farmers unless subsidized by government. Corporate farming has already

    made inroads in our country in seed production and they can adopt green house farmingthat do not require pesticides and toxins like Bt.

    Our biodiversity was rich with indigenous varieties of crops developed with

    traditional wisdom. We have already lost many of the traditional varieties of rice, wheat

    and other crops and continue to lose. A recent report in The Hindu of January 21, 2010has a most suitable title (Traditional wisdom helps develop good, disease-resistant

    varieties) on the development of indigenous varieties by the farmers. These varieties face

    threat from two directions - one from scientists who push GM crops and other from

    MNCs. As lamented by the farmer Jai Prakash Singh, neither the scientists (persumablyagri-scientists) nor the government respond enthusiastically to traditional knowledge.

    Unfortunately the scientists do not have enough time due to their preoccupation with

  • 8/3/2019 Unproved Questions on Bt Brinjal


    literature on modern technologies. They appear to recognize farmers only at times of

    controversies of their inventions since, they suggest the release of Bt brinjal without

    delay saying farmers would provide the answer!


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