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Illegal genetically engineered eggplants on Indian fields

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

eggplants
Eggplants. symbol picture © Shutterstock/Jelena Danilovic

In the Indian state Haryana, a small farmer has illegally planted genetically modified eggplants. Environmental activists fear that this is not an isolated case and demand decisive action from the authorities – so far without success.

Analysis confirmed that they were Bt eggplants

Following an advice, activists of the GM-Free India Coalition (GM Free India) took samples from an eggplant field in Haryana in April and had them examined by a private laboratory, reported the Times of India. The analysis confirmed that they were Bt eggplants, which produce toxins against pests through genetic material of a soil bacterium. After the activists raised alarm, government agencies confirmed the result and had the eggplants weeded out. The authorities consider the cultivation to be an isolated case, but environmentalists doubt it.

The Hindu reported that the farmer had sold the eggplant seedlings on the market of a flying trade. This suggests that other farmers have also grown these eggplants, so seedlings were produced on a larger scale.

Bt egpplants were developed by Monsanto subsidiary

Eggplants are a staple food in India and the dispute about their genetic modification has been ongoing for more than ten years. The Bt egpplants were developed by the Indian Monsanto subsidiary Mahyco. In 2009, GEAC permitted commercial cultivation of the genetically modified crops, which led to a storm of indignation. The Minister for Environment at the time collected the cultivation permit in 2010 and then imposed an indefinite moratorium.

Cultivation of Bt eggplants legal in Bangladesh

However, India’s neighbour Bangladesh authorised the cultivation of these Bt eggplants in 2013. Since then, environmental activists have repeatedly warned that Bt seedlings could be smuggled into India, according to the Asia-Pacific Research. In their analysis, they suggest that other genetically modified plants in India would also be cultivated illegally and that official control would fail.

But the seeds of the Bt eggplants may not even come from Bangladesh. GM Free India pointed out that in 2010 Mahyco and the Indian Ministry of the Environment had agreed on handing over of all remaining Bt seedlings to a government research facility. This never happened, wrote GM Free India, demanding the punishment of those responsible. The director of the research institute confirmed in a statement to the Times of India that his institute had not received a single seedling. In contrast, a Mahyco spokesman told the newspaper that all legal requirements had been met. Indian authorities said that the Bt eggplants in Haryana were not from the Mahyco modification.

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