KERALA, India -- Faced with protests and controversy over approval of India's first genetically modified (GM) food crop, 10 state governments have said no to Bt brinjal, reports Rediff Business. The GM eggplant, created with technology from US-based Monsanto Co., brought together representatives from different political parties who called their stand against GM crops "the second war of Indian independence."

At a conference called by the agriculture department and biodiversity board of the state government in Thiruvananthapuram, the representatives of the 10 states declared they would not rest until Bt brinjal and all GM food products "quit India." Attending the meeting was the communist-led coalition government in Kerala; the agriculture minister of the Congress-led government of Andhra Pradesh; ministers from the BJP-led governments of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh; and Rajasthan, the BJP-Akali government of Punjab; the BJD government in Orissa; the JD(U) government in Bihar and ministers from Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Each state, except Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, has officially banned genetically modified food material.

Said V. S. Vijayan: "The states made a joint declaration today, resolving against allowing Bt brinjal in their territory. The agricultural ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Punjab recounted the losses incurred by their farmers who opted for Bt cotton and vowed not to allow Bt brinjal in their states," he said. "Ultimately we are surrendering our freedom by becoming dependent on foreign seeds for our food. The states realise this and they called this stand the country's second war of independence."

Pushpa Bhargava, member of the Union government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), said the country did not have the technology to detect the Bt DNA. "All we can do is to either insist on labelling of all imported food or like Mahatma Gandhi, not buy any imported food," said Vijayan.

While the officials vehemently opposed Bt brinjal, they did not mention the genetically modified elements which already exist in the food chain through edible oil, soya products and various processed foods.