While the global debate about the safety of genetically modified(GM) foods is getting more and more muddied, India is quietly trying to introduce Bt brinjal, a GM vegetable developed by the multinational seed giant Monsanto in proxy, through its subsidiary Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (MAHYCO) and a couple of willing Indian collaborators. Government regulatory authority has already cleared it for commercial cultivation based on controversial data generated by the developers. Even if GOI eventually gives its nod to launch this product, how far it is going to be a commercial success remains to be seen.
A report by Debi Barker, Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization, says that genetically modified crops can spread in the environment and contaminate other crops and plants. Concerns over their effect on wildlife and human health have been expressed all over the globe. Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma raises a few important questions -"First of all, do we even need Bt brinjal? Why take a risk? Where is the crisis in brinjal production that necessitates it?"
The move is all the more risky since consumer will have no way to know whether brinjal in the market is natural or genetically modified, as most vegetables in the country are sold loose in the market with no label to depend on, for knowing the truth. The crucial question that will ultimately decide the viability of GM foods is whether consumer's right to know about what is being offered by the industry will be compromised through lax regulation by the governments concerned.