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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Farmers throng Delhi to oppose GM crops

Farmers throng Delhi

to oppose GM crops

On 6th May 2008, hundreds of farmers thronged national capital New Delhi and staged huge protest against Genetically Modified (GM) Crops and pressed for complete ban on them in India. 'PARYAYA' presents here a report on the agitation and some photos of the event. Thanks to Ganadhalu Srikanta and Ramoo's Public Gallery for providing some photos along with info.

Nethrakere Udaya Shankara

Farmers from across the country gathered under the banner of “Coalition for a GM-Free India” and opposed the government’s decision to allow field trials of Bt brinjal in the country. They termed that it would not only harm humans and livestocks, but also spoil fertility of soil and environment.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who spoke on the occasion, said that genetically modified crops are yet another attempt by corporates to take over Indian agriculture.

Member secretary of the Coalition, Kavitha Kuruganti also expressed similar views.

Consumers loose choice

Many representatives of farmers pointed out that the entry of Bt brinjal and such other vegetable in India would put an end to the consumers’ choice of differentiating between the normal and genetically modified brinjal, as there is lack of segregation and labelling facility in India.

They said the government should take a cue from the adverse impacts of Bt cotton cultivation before allowing any field trials.

“Farmers who even touched the crop developed allergy while animals grazing on it died. The fate would be similar in the case of any other GM crop and food,” they said, adding that studies on GM food have found various adverse health results like stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomach and reduced digestive enzymes among humans.


Cine stars Nafisa Ali, Nandita Das and Milind Soman, noted dancer Sonal Mansingh and others have extended their support to farmer’s agitation.

Apart from farmers scores of organizations working with “Coalition for a GM-Free India” from across the country, including farmers’ unions, environmental organizations, organic farming groups, women’s organizations etc also took part in the agitation.

Farmers from fifteen states took part from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Consumers from Delhi also joined the farmers in this protest against the Government of India and big agri-business corporations in their undemocratic attempts to thrust down unsafe food down our throats.

Why fight against bt Brinjal?
Because, In India, we are standing on the verge of the first GM food crop, Bt Brinjal, being approved for the second (and probably last) year large scale trials this Kharif 2008.

Mahyco, the Indian avataar of Monsanto, would be walking up to the regulators for permission for the second [and last] year of large scale trials this Kharif [starting June 2008] of Bt Brinjal, the first food crop in India and the first such GM vegetable crop with Bt gene anywhere in the world.

Elsewhere in the world, especially Europe, more countries are clamping bans on GM crops. More regions are declaring themselves GM-Free. In India, the central government is steamrollering ahead, with its support to the biotech industry and showing its lack of vision for Indian farming again and again.

Certain state governments are fortunately taking a long term, holistic view on genetic engineering and are appreciating the environmental, human health, political, economic and socio-cultural implications of such a technology on Indian farming and society. However, the Union of India is not upholding even this Constitutional right of state governments and is blindly moving ahead with its approvals of various crop trials and experiments.

Bt Brinjal biosafety is questionable - in fact, we should not forget that the results of genetic engineering itself are very unpredictable and the very process of GE results in different unintended hazardous consequences. Recently several scientists also claimed that Bio Technology is not answer for the problems of our agriculture.

With Bt Cotton, the experiences of farmers across the country, as recorded by official sources too, range from newer and increased number of pests and diseases to fatal impacts on livestock, effects on human health and effects on soil with hardly any benefits as claimed by the industry.

The stress intolerance of crops like Bt Cotton has also been recorded time and again. In this era of climate change, is this the technology that we want to rest our food and nutrition security on?
The regulators sitting in Delhi have also proven themselves to be unaccountable, unscientific, wedded to conflicting interests and apathetic to the real experiences of farmers on the ground.

Hence, the anti-GM battle in India has reached a crucial stage. If we continue to keep silent, more of this undemocratic thrusting down of unwanted, corporate technologies will continue to smother Indian farming as well as all of us - after all, you and I will not have any choices left if Bt Brinjal and other GM foods are allowed in. No systems of labelling will let you know if you are consuming Bt Brinjal or not, in this country.

But it is sorry to note here that corporate sectors have welcomed the government’s decision to allow field trials of Bt brinjal. Indian Council of Agriculture Research Director General Mangal Rai defended the Government’s decision, terming that genetically modified food was very much required to meet the food shortage in the country.

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