Thursday, August 18, 2011

GEAC orders silly tests to judge if Bt brinjal is fit to make Ayurvedic medicines

In a quandary over the release of Bt brinjal, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has ordered laboratory tests to conduct a compositional analysis to find out if Ayurvedic principles are disturbed in Bt brinjal.

P Anand Kumar, Principal Scientist, National Research Centre on Plant
Biotechnology (NRCPB) who has been working on Bt brinjal for several years, has informed that the tests are being conducted in the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad. The lab test report which is expected in the next two months would pave
the way for commercial release of Bt brinjal, it is thought.

Dr Ananda Kumar said the tests conducted in NIN would clear the apprehensions expressed by some that the Bt variety of brinjal would not have the same efficacy for preparing ayurvedic medicines as the non-GM.

This is utterly ridiculous. What are the 'lab tests' supposed to reveal about the suitability of using Bt brinjal in Ayurvedic medicine? Ayurveda scholars and practitioners will tell you that it is hard to identify isolated elements responsible for the medicinal value in a plant. Most often it is not known which specific 'chemical' actually is the effective one with the healing property. According to Ayurvedic principles, its a combination of elements that work to create the healing effect. This is the reason why many isolates from medicinal plants lose their healing properties when they are extracted and bottled.

Medicinal plants produce special chemicals under specific conditions. When these are changed, the composition and balance of such chemicals can change. The chemicals will vary from species to species and from location to location. It is for this reason that developing cultivation packages for medicinal plants is difficult. The cultivated varieties very often do not contain the effective properties that their naturally occurring counterparts do.

Competent as the NIN is, it can only measure what is known. If the active principles in brinjal that confer medicinal properties are not known, what will NIN measure ?

Dr Ananda Kumar should declare the mandate given to NIN and explain what they have been asked to measure. Further, Dr Kumar should explain how the measurement of these elements will reveal whether Bt brinjal is suitable for Ayurvedic preparations or not.