Bt brinjal cleared without adequate labelling and regulatory regime: CSE
New Delhi, October 15, 2009: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said today that the government should not clear any genetically modified food crop till the time we have strict provisions for labelling. Bt brinjal will be one of the few crops which are used for human consumption directly and not processed into bread or used in other processed foods. “Clearance of such a crop requires the authorities to practice extreme caution. Currently in India there is no labelling regime for genetically modified foods which will give consumers a choice to make a decision whether they want to consume genetically modified food or not. Till the time this is done regulators should not clear edible GM crops,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE.
This is critical and even more so, as other genetically modified food crops are on the anvil for clearance. Labelling of GM-food requires a strengthened laboratory and regulatory framework. Currently in India it is not possible to check the GM-content in our food and this analysis, if done, is rarely made available. The country’s eminent food scientists agree that testing for GM in food is not easy or cheap. If this is the case, then it becomes even more important for us to be cautious in clearing an edible crop, which then cannot be tested easily to check if it is GM or not.
The fact that this is an edible crop, it will become, even more important to ensure that there is no contamination of non-GM crops. The procedures to guard against contamination have been laid down by India’s regulatory authorities but implementation of these procedures, in the farms and fields of the country is a challenge.
In all this, it is clear that we will need a greatly enhanced regulatory system. Currently, all research is funded by companies and then presented to the regulators for clearance. “It is not surprising then that there is an enormous lack of credibility in the scientific integrity of this research. It is important that research done on our food is in the public domain and so is publicly funded,” said Narain. In April 15, 2009 issue Down To Earth had reported two studies which dispute the scientific basis of the research submitted by the proponent company.
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Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a New Delhi-based public interest research and advocacy organisation and is the recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize. It was recently ranked 17th among a global listing of top environmental think tanks in the Global Go To Think Tank Index, compiled each year by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the University of Pennsylvania in the US..