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APPROVAL & RISK ASSESSMENT: Lift ban on Bt brinjal says Indian biotechnology scientist



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   LIFT BAN ON BT BRINJAL: SCIENTISTS

SOURCE:  Daily News & Analysis, India (DNA)

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_lift-ban-on-bt-brinjal-scientists_1584286

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Brinjal is not used for Indian systems of medicine and no one should prevent it from becoming the world?s first commercially available genetically modified food, scientists said. [...] ?One of the objections to genetically modified brinjal is based on the claim that it would tamper with the vegetable that is used for medicinal purposes. After a three-month study, I?ve found that raw brinjal is not used in any system of medicine [...] said Prof Kameswara Rao of the Foundation of Biotechnology Awareness and Education."

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LIFT BAN ON BT BRINJAL: SCIENTISTS

Brinjal is not used for Indian systems of medicine and no one should prevent it from becoming the world?s first commercially available genetically modified food, scientists said.

Hence, the moratorium on Bt brinjal should be lifted, they argued on Tuesday.

?One of the objections to genetically modified brinjal is based on the claim that it would tamper with the vegetable that is used for medicinal purposes. After a three-month study, I?ve found that raw brinjal is not used in any system of medicine.

Other wild species in the Solanum group are used but not brinjal. Therefore, fears that commercial cultivation of genetically modified brinjal would jeopardise the vegetable?s use in Indian systems of medicine are baseless,? said Prof Kameswara Rao of the Foundation of Biotechnology Awareness and Education.

He released a special report on the ?Use of Brinjal in alternative systems of medicine in India.?

Genetically engineered crops are rigorously evaluated, they undergo stringent testing and are completely safe for consumption.

Ideology, bias, fear of multinational companies and misinformation are to blame for Bt brinjal not being accepted. There is no scientific basis to reject it.

Rao clarified that genetic modification was not an exclusive solution against pests but part of a package.

?No crop contains the terminator gene. That technology has been shut,? he said.

The consumer benefit goes up by 60%. Marketable yield will go up to 200% and pesticide application will be reduced by 77%. Also, it is not a private sector product. The public sector component has been ignored,? Rao said.

The scientific community wonders why there is opposition to incorporating a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis? a naturally occurring bacterium in the soil ? in the plant when it is widely used in pesticides.

?Instead of external application, it is incorporated in the plant. It is very difficult to understand why activists are against this,? said Dr TM Manjunath, consultant, agricultural biotechnology.

The protein this gene produces is capable of killing only one kind of insect. It is insect-specific and order-specific. The bacterium discovered in 1901 is being used in sprays.

The shoot and fruit borer insect that attacks brinjal resides in the shoot and, therefore, is inaccessible to pesticides. They cause 50%-70% crop loss. The loss to the consumer is about 15%-20%.

The Cry1Ac protein Bt makes is capable of controlling pests that ravage brinjal plants, the scientists asserted.

So far, 63 lakh farmers have taken to Bt cotton. Bt brinjal too would become popular if the moratorium was lifted, the scientists said.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   PM GETS A MEMORANDUM TO RECONSIDER THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION OF BT BRINJAL

SOURCE:  Food & Beverage News, India

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.fnbnews.com/article/detnews.asp?articleid=30509&sectionid=1

DATE:    07.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The Foundation of Biotechnology Awareness and Education, along with a team of agri scientists, have asserted that Bt brinjal is safe for human consumption. In this regard, they have now re-submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to reconsider the commercial production of Bt brinjal. The team said that the efficacy studies on Bt brinjal have shown that these varieties effectively controlled the brinjal stem and fruit borer and the American bollworm, with an insect mortality of 98 per cent."

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PM GETS A MEMORANDUM TO RECONSIDER THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION OF BT BRINJAL

The Foundation of Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE), along with a team of agri scientists, have asserted that Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis ) brinjal is safe for human consumption. In this regard, they have now re-submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to reconsider the commercial production of Bt brinjal.

The team said that the efficacy studies on Bt brinjal have shown that these varieties effectively controlled the brinjal stem and fruit borer and the American bollworm, with an insect mortality of 98 per cent.

Even though regulatory agencies like the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and the RCIM (Research Centre for Integrated Microsystems) have recognised the benefits of Bt brinjal over non-Bt varieties, yet, there was a reluctance arising out of the misleading claims from those opposing it, stated Prof. C Kameswara Rao, founder, FBAE, at a press conclave here.

?Let not farmers, the ultimate beneficiary of this technology --as was evident from the stupendous success of Bt cotton-- suffer the tyranny of politics. By allowing Bt brinjal the government will enable millions of brinjal farmers to earn more and lead better and happier lives. After the White Revolution of Bt cotton, the country was all set to usher in an era of Gene Revolution,? Prof. Rao said in a fervent appeal to the PM.

Scientists at the conclave opined that the moratorium on Bt brinjal was strongly influenced by those opposed to agricultural biotechnology than by credible, critical, and balanced scientific judgement of technologists and bio-security experts on Bt brinjal, which was accepted by Philippines to process their Bt brinjal varieties and which would be released next year.

?The government?s decision of imposing a moratorium on Bt brinjal seriously affected research and development activities in the country?s agricultural biotechnology sector,? said Prof Rao.

?The moratorium has created a regulatory uncertainty on the development of all genetically engineered crops in the country. In a year-and-a-half, there has been no palpable, effective and time-bound effort to lift the moratorium on Bt brinjal or to resolve the uncertainties caused by the moratorium,? he added.

Dr T M Manjunath, consultant, agricultural biotechnology, said, ?Considering that the product efficacy, bio-safety and environmental safety of Bt brinjal were evaluated for over seven years as per the international standards, involving over 200 scientists and more than a dozen public and private sector research institutions, Bt brinjal should be commercially released without further delay.?

The adoption of Bt brinjal would aid millions of farmers, by reducing the use of synthetic insecticide up to 77 per cent and losses from the brinjal shoot and fruit borer (SFB), resulting in an increase in marketable yield, reducing cost of production. There would be about 60 per cent consumer benefit as well. As per a recent publication from the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, an ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) institute, Bt brinjal adoption would add between 30,000 to 1,19,000 tonnes to the total production of brinjal, depending upon the extent of cultivation in different areas / states. The absolute annual gain at the country level from Bt brinjal cultivation would be about Rs 577 crore at an adoption level of 15 per cent, about Rs 1,167 crore at 30 per cent and Rs 2,387 crore at 60 per cent adoption level.

Over 25 years of research experience and over 15 years of experience in commercial cultivation in about 30 countries have demonstrated that Bt crops are effective and safe for use. The benefits from Bt technology have been amply demonstrated in India as well through the commercial cultivation of Bt cotton since 2002, which lifted India to the position of second largest exporter of cotton.