There could be a ‘Brinjalgate’ brewing in the wings as evidence trickles in that crucial data on the safety of Bt Brinjal was supressed or misinterpreted by Indian hybrid seeds company Mahyco in its report submitted to the country’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.
In animal studies, rats fed on Bt Brinjal exhibited decreased immunity, liver damage and reproductive disorders. These facts were not mentioned in Mahyco’s report, based on which India had approved the commercial release of Bt Brinjal. It is another story that the release had to be shelved last year in the face of massive opposition from environmental groups. Mahyco is the first private enterprise in India to produce and market hybrids of cotton, sorghum, pearl millet, sunflower and wheat. It was also the first Indian company to commercially grow and market transgenic Bollgard cotton — India’s first transgenic crop in 2002.
According to a media report, New Zealander epidemiologist Lou Gallagher analysed the data to report the mismatch between the Mahyco report and its interpretation. The report states ‘no alterations in the organ weights of rats treated at 1,000 mg/kg’ whereas significant changes were seen in ovarian and spleen weights.
The revelation reminds one of last year’s ‘Climategate’ triggered from leaked mails of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Data being tweaked and supressed to suit scientific hypotheses is not new.
This one will ensure that the Brinjal debate does not die down in a hurry.