Research Supervisors: Prof. Wiebe E. Bijker and Prof. Esha Shah
Institution: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), Maastricht University.
Project Timeframe: January, 2011 to July, 2011.
On 9th February, 2010, the then Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests (MoSEF), Jairam Ramesh, imposed a moratorium on the agricultural production of Bt Brinjal after organizing a set of public consultations on the issue. In a statement released on the day, he said: “It is my duty to adopt a cautious precautionary principle based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal till such time 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“. The moratorium not only portrays the possibilities inherent within a public debate, but it also marks another significant event in the continuous evaluation of science and its impact on the developing economy of India. Right from the modern Chipko Movement of the early 1970s initiated as a protest against deforestation for industrialization to Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) since late 1980s against the construction of Narmada Dam, the public conversations on science in India are marked by distinct peaks of criticism within the generic troughs of belief that development through science is equivalent to progress of the country. In this thesis, the Bt Brinjal controversy is explored as yet another critique of this belief system around science led development in India. The thesis looks at a sequence of historical events between 2005 and 2010 that led up to the National Consultations on Bt Brinjal in January and February, 2010 organized for the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Within this historical sequence, it evaluates the persistent notions of science governance in India and places them within the historicity of the controversy.
Presentation: Ranjit Singh, ‘Testing for the Post-normal age: Investigating Scientific Risk Assessment in Bt Brinjal Controversy‘, at the Science Studies Reading Group Meeting(Ithaca: Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University, 15 April 2013).