Should the Bt Brinjal controversy concern healthcare professionals and bioethicists?
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee’s approval of Bt brinjal, the first genetically modified crop for human consumption in India, has sparked off protests across the country. This article questions the so-called benefits of GM crops and highlights some major concerns. These include: inadequately addressed health and environmental risks, inadequate safety guidelines, a lack of transparency in sharing test data, the implications to seed sovereignty of farmers and the lack of informed choice for consumers. Some concerns about field testing by Mahyco, the developer of Bt-brinjal, and the process of evaluation by GEAC remain unresolved. With inadequate information about the crop’s long-term safety, a precautionary approach is advocated before national policy allows commercial release of the seeds. A fair process is also needed in the public consultations being proposed by the minister of state for environment and forests. In addition to issues of procedural justice, a basic ethical question remains: do humans have a right to dominate the land and make expendable those creatures that they deem “undesirable”?
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