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Mar 8, 2010

WSJ Opinion Asia - Entrepreneurs, Bt Eggplant & GM Crops in India

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece on India's decision to ban BT brinjal by Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter & Gamble India and author of The Difficulty of Being Good (Penguin, 2009).

Mr. Das recounts how in India, the greatest risk to capitalist entrepreneurs is regulation from the Indian governmet.  He cites the work of Badrinarayan Ramulal Barwale who founded Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company in 1964 and received the World Food Prize in 1998.  Mahyco is the Indian company that developed BT brinjal and 30 hybrized seed varieties for cotton, sorghum, sunflower and wheat.  Mahyco invested heavily in research and development for Bt brinjal, "conduct[ing] 25 environmental biosafety studies supervised by independent and government agencies to ensure that its product had the same nutritional value and is compositionally identical to regular eggplant; finally, it did rigorous field trials in collaboration with two Indian agricultural universities." 

To fuel its projects, Monsanto invested in Mahyco and now has a 26% stake in the company.  This gave Greenpeace activists fuel to protest and they stirred up a great deal of controversy dressed in eggplant suits. 

After nine years of regulatory tests, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh banned the release of BT brinjal.  His reasoning - there is a need for more tests.

Gao concludes that "[u]ncertainty ... presents a true barrier to business. The capricious decisions coming out of Delhi are creating uncertainty. ... No wonder investors continue to believe that authoritarian China is more investor friendly than democratic India."

Photo credit: Greenpeace Brinjal Activists, Deccan Herald, India.
For more see: Das, Gurcharan. "Entrepreneurs and Eggplant: A Case Study in How India's Government is the Main Obstacle to Economic Progress." Wall Street Journal, Opinion Asia, 8 March 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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