ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Un-scientific Dismissal

The analysis in “Bt Brinjal: Need to Refocus the Debate” (EPW, 15 May) by Prabir Purkayastha and Satyajit Rath is right to the extent that in the debate on genetically-modifi ed (GM) crop technology, the role of multinational corporations (MNCs) like Monsanto and other monopolies should not be neglected. Recent evidence from the United States shows that independent scientists are unable to take up biosafety and efficacy-related research given that the MNCs are enforcing intellectual property rights against such research.

However, the main thrust of the authors’ argument that techno-worries are minor while they hold centre stage in the GM debate is quite narrow. After the recent Bhopal verdict that has revealed how judicial expertise in India cannot currently differentiate between toxic hazards and road accidents, we need to rethink our response to risks and hazards. A toxic material is toxic whether served up by an MNC or by a public sector institution. It would have been appropriate for the authors to say that the debate is multifaceted and various concerns have to be addressed, both in a policy regime and in a rigorous regulatory regime that then administers that policy.

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