Press Statement on Bt. Brinjal & GM Foods

January 12, 2010




Bt. Brinjal and GM Foods


Bt. Brinjal was approved for commercial planting under pressure of the Agriculture Minitry as acknowledged by the Chair of EC-II, the panel that gave the approval. GMO crops are facing increasing resistance from citizens and increasing calls for caution from the scientific community. As a result of this controversy, the Environment Ministry is organizing a series of public hearings on Bt. Brinjal.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya in her letter to Mr. Jairam Ramesh has highlighted that the rationale for the approval is wrong since it has totally ignored organic agriculture as the sustainable system for controlling pests. 

As she said at the press conference on the subject “we neither need toxic pesticides nor toxic Bt. Brinjal”. Navdanya farmers produce toxic free organic baigan and other vegetables. The argument that without GM Bt., pests cannot be controlled is totally false.” Navdanya’s survey in Vidharbha shows that pesticide use has increased thirteen fold since Bt. Cotton was introduced.

Dr. Shiva also pointed out that the so call safety tests have not tested for transgenic Bt. which includes genes for antibiotic resistance and genes for viral promoters. The tests have been done by the safe microbial Bt. which has been used as an organic pesticide for decades. The tests merely show the safety of the organic spray. They have not looked into the risks that transgenic Bt. creates. This is “don’t look, don’t see, don’t find” policy to create deliberate ignorance of risks and use this ignorance as proof of safety.

The final flaw in the approval is its adhoc data. The panel cannot make up its mind whether Brinjal is self-pollinated or cross pollinated.

“Brinjal is a normally highly self-pollinated crop, however the scientific data with regard to cross pollination generated independently by various agencies shows a wide range of out crossing, suggesting its classification as “an often cross pollinated” crop. Therefore Indian researchers have reported 2 to 48% out crossing in brinjal varieties in India” (p.38).

There is similar variation in the pollen flow studies carried out by Mahyco and reported in the panel. When Mahycodid the pollen flow study in 2002, the percent out crossing of the Bt trait ranged between 1.46 to 2.7% and the maximum distance transversed by pollen from Bt. Brinjal plants was 20 m.

In 2007, the out crossing had dropped to the range of 0.14% and 0.85%, and the distance the Bt. Pollen traveled had increased to 30 metres. 

Dr. Shiva has called for a moratorium on commercial GM approvals as she said “Bt. Brinjal is a test case for the future of our food, our democracy, our science. That is why it should not be introduced in our farms and our kitchens without a proper reassessment, especially in the context of false assumptions made to present Bt. Brinjal as the only alternative available ignoring the proven agro ecological approach to pest control. The safety tests should be done with transgene Bt, not with surrogate proteins. The genetic contamination risks also need reassessment given the scientific unsoundness on cross pollination data. There is no GM liability framework. This must be put in place to protect organic farmers.

Above all, to avoid conflict of interest, developers of GM crops should not be engaged in the Biosafety testing.”

Navdanya members who have organised themselves as GMO free Jaiv Panchayats (Living Democracy) at the village level have resolved that they reject the approval of Bt. Brinjal. The first set of letters from 126 Jaiv Panchayats signed by 4365 farmers have been sent to the Environment Minister. More will be forwarded to him as we receive them from our farming communities.

This is Living Democracy. This is our Bija Satyagraha to stop GM seeds. It is our Bija Swaraj to defend our food and seed sovereignty.

For further information, please contact



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