Crop Biotech Update

Bt Brinjal Safety Adequately Studied, Says Environment Minister of State

November 27, 2009

Replying to a question "Introduction of Bt brinjal" in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and Lok Sabha (Lower House) of the Parliament of India on 23 and 25 Nov 2009, Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent charge) Mr. Jairam Ramesh stated that "Bt brinjal event EE-1 has been developed in compliance with the prevailing regulatory procedures and biosafety guidelines which conform to the international norms. In accordance with the prescribed terms of reference, the Expert Committee reviewed the findings of the data generated during large scale trials, biosafety data of Bt brinjal provided by the developer, studies conducted by various institutions, published literature, reports from international/national groups and representatives from NGOs, farmers, consumers and other stakeholders."

Minister Ramesh informed the Rajya Sabha that "the environmental safety assessment studies have been carried out on pollen escape out- crossing, aggressiveness and weediness, effect of the gene on non-target organisms, presence of the protein in soil and its effect on soil micro-flora, confirmation of the absence of Terminator Gene and baseline susceptibility studies. The food and feed safety assessment studies carried out include composition analysis, allergenicity and toxicological studies, and feeding studies on fish, chicken, cows and buffaloes. The cumulative results of more than 50 field trials conducted to assess the safety, efficacy and agronomic performance of Bt brinjal demonstrate that Cry1Ac protein in Bt brinjal provides effective protection from the Fruit and Shoot Borer, a major pest in brinjal crop; resulting in enhanced economic benefits to the farmers and traders accrued from higher marketable yield and lower usage of pesticide sprays."

In the 97th meeting held on 14th Oct 2009, India's biotech regulator the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) discussed the Report of the Expert Committee (EC-II) on Bt brinjal event EE-I and concluded that it is safe for environmental release. Since this decision of the GEAC will have major policy implications, the GEAC decided to forward the recommendations and report of the Expert Committee on the safety and efficacy of Bt brinjal event EE-I to the Government of India for a final view. The Ministry of Environment and Forest will take a final decision of the commercial release of Bt brinal EE-I after holding a number of public consultations in Jan and Feb 2010.

The Q&A "Introduction of Bt Brinjal", the Rajya Sabha (Upper house) of the Parliament of India is available at: http://164.100.47.4/newrsquestion/ShowQn.aspx and the press release from the Press Information Bureau (PIB) is available at: http://www.pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=54401

The Press Information Bureau press release "Extensive Evaluation and Regulatory Approval Process before Approval for Commercial Cultivation of GM Plant" based on the Q&A in the Lok Sabha of the Parliament of India is available at: http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=54567

Decision of the 97th Meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) held on 14 Oct 2009 is available at: http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/decision-oct-97.pdf

For more information about biotech development in India contact: b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org