Public hearings on Bt brinjal from January

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 1 2010, 03:56am hrs
A series of public hearings will be held from January on the safety of Bt brinjal, the first genetically modified food crop recently cleared for commercial release by the central bio-tech regulator amid strong protests from environmentalists.

The environment ministry will hold the first public consultation in Kolkata on January 13 while the next hearing will be held in Bhubaneshwar on January 16 and the third in Ahmedabad on January 19.

The fourth public hearing will be held in Hyderabad (January 22), fifth in Bangalore (January 23), sixth in Nagpur (January 27) and seventh in Chandigarh on January 30, a senior environment ministry official said.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh will personally attend the meetings to be held with scientists, agriculture experts, farmers organisations, consumer groups and NGOs, the official said. In view of a raging controversy over the decision of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to allow commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, Ramesh had promised to hold consultations with the concerned stakeholders before deciding the fate of the GM food.

It is being promoted by Mahyco along with University of Agriculture Sciences, Dharwad, and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore. The official said the government would formally approve the commercial cultivation after delibetarting about its scientific, bio-safety and licencing issues with the stakeholders.

Bt brinjal, if finally approved, will become the countrys first GM food crop and would also decide the fate of close to 40 other food crops, like rice, tomato, mustard, and potato, which are in the final stage of trial, awaiting clearance. The genetically-engineered brinjal produces a pesticide to tackle the pest that destroys the crop. The first GM crop Bt cotton was approved way back in 2002 amid strong resistance from environmentalists.