It looks like the powers that be in India have decided to turn a big thumbs down to permitting the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) Bt Brinjal! Brinjal or aubergines, are more commonly known as eggplants here in the U.S. and we can only pray that our government officials will take a closer look at whether we should be so quick to allow the use of genetically modified crops in our own domestic food supply.
The decision to impose a moratorium on Bt Brinjal in India was made as a result of public opposition and health concerns over the safety of consuming genetically engineered plants that contain gene material from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium that has long served as an effective organic pest control. While this bacterium is generally considered safe as used in traditional organic agriculture, there are concerns over heavy applications and debate regarding the safety of consuming Bt in the diet.
In organic farming or gardening Bt pesticides are typically diluted with water and sprayed onto the foliage of plants to control caterpillar type insects. Used in this manner the bacteria is applied only when targeted insects are present, and the residue wears off over time and with exposure to rain, sunlight, and other elements. By making the Bacillus thuringiensis gene a part of the plant itself it seems unlikely the active components would diminish over time or through exposure to the elements.
There are also concerns about insects developing increased resistance to Bt as a result of overuse and through the introduction of various genetically modified Bt crops. Another fear is that the GM plant varieties will cross pollinate and contaminate the traditional and heirloom varieties of eggplants that are under cultivation.
In addition to eggplants Bacillus thuringiensis modified varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, and potatoes have also been developed. Currently GM food products in the U.S. do not require any form of labeling to notify consumers of their presence. The majority of commercially grown genetically modified crops are raised in the U.S., with corn and soybeans being the most commonly produced GM foods.
Here are links to a few articles related to the battle over Bt Brinjal in India:
- India Defers GM food crop on Safety Grounds
- India Divided over Plans for GM aubergine
- Bt Brinjal Controversy Divides India
A final irony in the matter is that one of the reasons being used to justify the need for Bt Brinjal is; to reduce the expense of chemical pesticides and the “harmful residue” and pollution that those chemicals leave behind (as stated by a researcher in the second article). In other words chemical pesticides that were described as safe and always downplayed in the past when making arguments against the benefits of organic agriculture are now being emphasized as a reason to accept a GM plant engineered with Bacillus thuringiensis! What’s next?
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