India has banned the planting of the country's first edible GM crop, a type of aubergine modified to produce Bt toxin.
The seed, developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, which is part owned by US biotech giant Monsanto, was said to be more resistant to natural pests.
However, against a backdrop of protest from farmers and leaders of aubergine-growing states, the Indian Environment Minister said today that he was adopting a 'cautious precautionary principle':
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'...till such time as independent scientific studies establish to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals the safety of the product from the point of view of its long term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.'
Bt Brinjal would have been the first GM food crop approved for release in India, which has allowed the use of GM seeds for cotton production since 2002.
But campaigners said the possibility of cross-contamination would have threatened the 2,000 or more traditional varieties of aubergine currently grown in India.
'India is the origin of the brinjal family of plants, so containing the GM trait once the GM brinjal is released could prove impossible,' said GM Freeze campaigner Peter Riley.
'There are also doubts about how effective the insect resistance would be in the long term,' he added.
Friends of the Earth's food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said the GM crop would benefit 'big business and not local farmers or hungry people'.
Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company
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Don't buy seeds; swap them
You can't buy a seed unless its strain has been expensively registered. But you can swap them with fellow gardeners, helping food growing and biodiversity to thrive