Tenali: Gopal, do you know that for the first time a Genetically Modified (GM) variety of brinjal, Bt Brinjal, is going to be introduced in India.

Gopal: What is that, Tenali?

Tenali: GM means the deliberate, controlled manipulation of the genes in an organism with the intent of making it better in some way. This is usually done independent of natural process. The result is a so-called genetically modified organism (GMO).

Gopal: But for what gain?

Tenali: Proponents of genetic engineering claim that it has numerous benefits, including the production of food-bearing plants that are resistant to extreme weather and adverse climates, insect infestations, disease, molds, and fungi. In addition, it may be possible to reduce the amount of plowing  thereby saving energy and minimizing soil erosion. A major motivation is the hope of producing abundant food at low cost to reduce world hunger, both directly (by feeding GMOs to human beings) and indirectly (by feeding GMOs to livestock and fish, which can in turn be fed to humans). One Indian politician said that the most urgent task is to feed hungry stomachs, (no matter what the cost).

Gopal: What could be the adverse reactions?

Tenali: Genetic engineering carries potential dangers, such as the creation of new allergens and toxins, the evolution of new weeds and other noxious vegetation, harm to wildlife, and the creation of environments favorable to the proliferation of molds and fungi (ironically, in light of the purported advantage in that respect). Some scientists have expressed concern that new disease organisms and increased antibiotic resistance could result from the use of GMOs in the food chain. The darkest aspect of genetic engineering is the possibility that a government or institution might undertake it to enhance human beings by means of genetic engineering or use this technology to create biological weapons.

Gopal: I have a funny story to tell. One king liked a brinjal dish served by his cook so much that he told him to cook brinjal every day. Then he asked his minister as to why brinjal tasted so good. The minister replied that brinjal is the “king” of vegetables and is also called bahuguna (bahu  “many” and guna  “good qualities”). After a week of eating brinjals every day the bored king stopped his cook from cooking brinjal anymore. Again he called his minister and complained that eating brinjals continuously for a week has made him sick. The minister replied that this was the reason the brinjal was called be guna (be  “without” and guna  “good qualities”). The astonished king asked how he could make such contradictory statements about brinjal. The minister said, “Your Majesty, I am your servant. You pay my salary, not the brinjal.

Tenali: Now I get it. Whether the Bt brinjal is is good or bad doesn’t really matter to the scientists and politicians. All that matters is their pay. Whatever is the opinion of the party that pays, those words they will say.