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Indian regulators have recommended genetically modified (GM) aubergines for planting in India but extensive consultation will take place before a decision about their cultivation is made.

GM aubergine — also known as eggplant or brinjal — would become India's first GM vegetable and one of a few GM crops grown for direct human consumption around the world. Most edible GM crops are processed or used in other foods.

India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approved the GM aubergine variety, which is resistant to the devastating shoot borer pest, this week (14 October).

But the Indian government announced yesterday (15 October) that it will put GEAC's report into the public domain for comment until 31 December and make a final decision only once all stakeholder groups have been consulted in early 2010.

GEAC's recommendation was met with mixed feelings. Mathura Rai, director of the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, who led research into the variety, urged the government to grant final clearance.

"Forty per cent of current brinjal crop is destroyed by pests and its introduction would mean an immediate gain," Rai told the news agency AFP.

Those against the crop's introduction have called for the research data to be checked by an independent source.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) warns that the government should not clear edible GM crops until strict labelling measures are put in place.

"Currently in India there is no labelling regime for genetically modified foods to give consumers a choice whether they want to consume genetically modified food or not," says CSE director Sunita Narain.

Link to full article in The Hindu

Link to full article in The Independent