India’s Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh recently placed a moratorium on the domestic cultivation of genetically-modified eggplant, known as brinjal in India, a move which puts an indefinite hold on the production of all GM food crops on Indian soil. His decision comes in response to public dissent and a lack of scientific evidence establishing the safety of GM crops.
The new policy halts Monsanto’s plans to expand its operations abroad through its Indian partner, Mahyco. Mahyco researchers developed a Bt brinjal that is resistant to natural pests, but data suggests that the new variety may pose a serious health risk to consumers. In one of the first insider critiques of Monsanto’s business practices, former managing director of Monsanto India, Tiruvadi Jagadisan, accused the company of using “fake scientific data” to push their GM aubergine through government regulatory agencies (see full story in India Today). According to his testimony, India’s Central Insecticide Board accepted data from Monsanto without assuring its accuracy or double-checking the company’s assertions.
Mr. Ramesh said that, although the decision was difficult, he wanted to be both “responsible to science and responsive to society” (see full story in BBC News). The moratorium will stand until further testing proves GM technology safe to both customers and the environment.