Bt Brinjal moratorium to stay: Ramesh

New Delhi, Feb 24 (Calcutta Tube) Just hours before his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the controversial Bt Brinjal issue, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Wednesday said the moratorium on commercial cultivation of the genetically modified crop would stay.

Manmohan Singh will chair a meeting of Ramesh, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan on the issue. Pawar and Chavan have vehemently opposed Ramesh’s stand on not granting approval to commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal on grounds that not enough studies have been carried out on its safety to satisfy everybody.

‘Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has written a six page letter to the prime minister on the future of GM crops. I presume that the meeting today evening is to discuss that…I don’t know what the meeting’s outcome will be…(but) the moratorium on Bt Brinjal stands,’ Ramesh told reporters here during an interaction at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

He insisted that his stand at the meeting would be that the indefinite moratorium period ‘has to be used to put in place an institutional mechanism of regulation; a durable political consensus on the issue including in some of the so-called progressive states in the western part of the country as well as a proper scientific consensus.’

He added that the moratorium imposed by him Feb 9 did not mean a conditional acceptance nor a ban.

‘Let’s cool down,’ said Ramesh, adding that ‘none of the applications (for commercial Bt crop approvals) would see the light of day for at least three years’.

The environment minister has put together a list of the various BT crops whose applications for commercial cultivation are pending with the government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee — they include cauliflower, tomato, potato, corn, okra, cabbage and rice.

‘Only rice has anything to do with the food security argument (put up by the agriculture ministry),’ the minister said.

He refuted reports that the prime minister favoured Bt Brinjal, saying that his decision was in tune with Manmohan Singh’s stand.

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