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Plants uprooted, buried in drive against Bt brinjal in Haryana

The Haryana horticulture department has launched a crackdown on the illegal cultivation of genetically modified brinjal or eggplant in Fatehabad district, a top official said on Friday, adding the plants had been “uprooted and deeply buried”.

The state government also shared images of officials burying the Bt brinjal plants in a trench.

GM brinjal isn’t legal in India.

Arjun Saini, director general of horticulture, Haryana, said “The government is very serious about this issue. Environment department will take further measures like investigation and FIR as per the law.”

Dhirendra Khadgata, deputy commissioner, Fatehabad, said no FIR has been registered. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment ministry, however, did not comment on whether possible contamination of GM brinjal is being investigated elsewhere in the country.

Earlier this month, farmers in Haryana and experts had expressed fears of widespread contamination of GM brinjal in the state with the farmer accused of cultivating Bt brinjal in Fatehabad district admitting that he had been growing and selling the GM produce since 2017.

Farm activists demanded that other brinjal fields in Haryana be investigated for contamination. “There are several things to be resolved yet. For one, the source of seedling supply has to be zeroed in on by Haryana government. That should not be very difficult given four farmers that we are aware of, grew this unapproved GM brinjal, and because there would only be so many nurseries, in Haryana or Punjab,” said Kavitha Kuriganti, convenor of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.

“A village-wise survey should be undertaken of all brinjal farmers and their past three years’ cultivation experience. Meanwhile, GEAC has to instruct states like Punjab to take up a survey too,” she added.

Earlier this week, Saini had claimed citing the results received from National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), that “the samples have tested negative for the CRY 1AC gene and EE 1 event, so these may not have been contaminated by the variety being grown in Bangladesh”.

“They have tested positive for other gene markers which will have to be investigated by the Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar,” he said. But it’s still not clear which GM version may have been leaked.

A few days ago, Aruna Rodrigues, the lead petitioner in the Supreme Court against genetically modified crops, wrote to Anil Kumar Jain, chairman of GEAC calling for event-specific testing of the samples. [An event is the insertion of a particular gene] .

We require urgently, as you no doubt understand, event-specific testing to ascertain the source of the contamination. There may be more than one event involved,” she wrote.

First Published:
May 18, 2019 00:58 IST

Source: HindustanTimes