February 23, 2010
By embargoing Bt brinjal, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh may have done a greater service to democracy than he intended, says Praful Bidwai.
April: Why can’t our governments take a page from India? Although North America is fairly entrenched in GM crops, this story does offer hope to those of us that actively march against GMO. India is fighting for their right to choose what to grow, and won’t allow the government to cease their voices. Bt Cotton’s failure was good timing….
India has done something unusual in defying the long-established trend of capitulating to corporate power.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh must be complimented for imposing a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) brinjal (or baigan, also called aubergine and eggplant) developed by Mahyco-Monsanto in collaboration with two Indian agricultural universities.
He deserves encomiums for consulting stakeholders in major brinjal-producing states like West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. This public consultation approach sets a good precedent. It deserves to become a model for governmental decision-making on all issues that concern people’s livelihoods.
To appreciate the moratorium rationally, one need not go as far as former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology P M Bhargava did in euphorically describing it as “the single most important decision taken by any minister since Independence”.
Yet, it couldn’t have been easy to take in the face of feverish lobbying by Monsanto, one of the world’s most powerful multinationals.
Monsanto, which controls 84 per cent of the global GM seeds market and has a long reach in the United States and Indian governments, lobbied for Bt brinjal in league with other biotechnology companies and groups of plant breeders with a stake in developing GM foods.
They were backed by major sections of the corporate media which fervently campaigned for Bt brinjal and celebrated all GM technology as safe and unproblematic and as the key to India’s food security.