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Row over Bt Brinjal puts Ramesh in a soup

Feb 06, 2010 04:45 PM IST India India

Bangalore: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says he is seeking a “middle path” in the controversy over Bt Brinjal. He quite didn’t give the impression on Saturday.

Ramesh and opponents of BT Brinjal quarreled with each other at a four-hour meeting in Bangalore. He scolded and pleaded with opponents and supporters of Bt Birnjal but a consensus on the issue couldn’t be reached.

“I am not an extremist. I am trying to take the middle path. All public consultation is now over. My ministry will now take a decision,” he said after listening to NGOs, farmers, doctors and scientists supporting and opposing Bt Brinjal.

Ramesh lost his temper when a protester--an ayurvedic doctor--accused him of being an "agent" of biotech firm Monsanto.

"I am not a Monsanto agent--you need help," Ramesh snapped.

As the debate became bitter, Ramesh tried humour and warning to calm down the meeting. "This is not the Parliament. They must stop telecasting parliamentary proceedings-- this is highly infectious,” he told a participant who was shouting.

Ramesh rejected allegations that he was under pressure to allow Bt Brinjal in the country and insisted he would decide about the issue independently.

“The decision over the implementation of the Bt Brinjal will be by my Ministry. The Agriculture Ministry’s stand will not weight upon my decision,” he said.

“Scientists should not display arrogance while discussing the issue. I am trying to find a middle path, which means (between) anti-democratic nature of NGOs and arrogance of scientists,” said Ramesh when a scientist asked him why farmers were resisting Bt Brinjal but had accepted technologies like cellphone.

“I don’t want to play to the scientific gallery. I don’t want to play to any gallery.”

Bt Brinjal, a genetically modified version of the common vegetable, and its proposed introduction in India has become a topic of debate among scientists, farmers and politicians.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI and IANS)

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