The Coalition for a GM-free India, a group of non-government organisations, has asked Delhi to stop any illegal or unintentional transfer of GM brinjal or its seeds from across the Bangladesh border, the 'Telegraph' said in a report.
“We’re asking for tighter border controls, but we also want the government to explore other mechanisms to reduce the risks of GM brinjal coming into India from Bangladesh,” Rajesh Krishnan, co-convener of the Coalition, told the Telegraph.
India’s environment ministry had three years ago imposed a moratorium on GM brinjal after consultations with proponents of crop biotechnology and sections of scientists who had called for caution before releasing a GM food crop widely consumed across India.
Krishnan said the GM brinjal that Bangladesh is assessing is the same product developed by Mahyco, a private Indian crop biotechnology company, that is still under the moratorium in India.
While the company had also tried to promote the crop in the Philippines, Krishnan said in a letter sent to the environment ministry, a Philippines court order has put a stop to open-air field trials of the GM brinjal there.
Environmental policy activists in Bangladesh have said their government appears set to approve the crop despite India’s moratorium.
“Our ministries of agriculture and environment seem to favour the crop,” said Farida Akhter, an activist with Ubinig, a non-government group in Bangladesh.
“There are indications they want to approve cultivation on a limited scale, but we fear that once it’s released, it will be difficult to control.”
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had imposed the moratorium in India in February 2010 after hearing scientists and sections of industry favouring its commercial release and others who raised issues of safety and India’s lax regulatory standards.
Sections of the biotechnology industry have called the moratorium unscientific.
India is a centre of origin and diversity of the brinjal, and some scientists have warned that the commercial release of GM brinjal could threaten the rich diversity of the crop in farmers’ fields in the country.
“India should share its concerns about GM brinjal with Bangladesh and — if Bangladesh goes ahead with commercial release — it should ensure that the plants are not grown close to the border the country shares with India,” Krishnan said.