Assessing impact of India’s 5-year GMO Bt brinjal ban

Monday was the fifth anniversary of the imposition of a moratorium on the commercialization of genetically modified brinjal by the ministry of environment and forests, a decision that continues to attract both bouquets and brickbats. This was the very first transgenic food crop sought to be sold in the market, the earlier transgenic being genetically modified cotton.

Transgenic crops are those which have genes from some other source introduced into them for generating some positive impacts. The genetic modification in both cases involve the insertion of genes from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis.

Bt brinjal, like Bt cotton, demands the use of substantially lower chemical pesticides. Bt cotton has been a runaway success in India, with about a fifth of the yield increase over the past decade being attributed to its use.

The moratorium was the middle path based on precaution, an approach that would be both responsible to science and responsive to society. That is the only way to move ahead. Technology will necessarily have to play a key role given the challenges of climate stress, although within the overall umbrella of genetic engineering there are a wide variety of techniques available to be harnessed, say for instance, genetic markers. At the same time, the use of “traditional” techniques to eliminate the use of chemical pesticides that have been effective in some states, particularly Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, should not be treated with the customary scientist’s disdain and should be propagated nationally.

Read full, original article: Bt brinjal revisited

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