Stalls selling cereals, nuts, spices, snacks and books dotted the organic food mela organised by the Safe Food Alliance at Semmozhi Poonga in the city on Sunday. Interspersed with these, were volunteers selling gardening equipment, seeds and pots to promote the growth of organic terrace vegetables. A big hit with the large crowd that turned up for the mela, were the hand-spun and hand-woven clothes, along with leafy green vegetables.

Sripriya Tadepalli, a visitor at the mela was carrying several bundles of leafy vegetables. “I am totally against genetically modified vegetables. Here, it is all organic. All the vegetables are very good and fresh,” she said.

The mela, part of a campaign to generate awareness about issues like pesticides containing toxic chemicals being used in Indian agriculture, encouraged visitors to sign a petition to be submitted next month to Union minister of agriculture, Sharad Pawar. Asking for a policy change, the petition demands a ban on the use of pesticides, the provision of poison-free food to pregnant and lactating women and children, and also highlights the concerns around genetically-modified crops in India.

V.R. Ananthoo, coordinator of the Safe Food Alliance, said, “It is our right to have access to safe organic food. For that we have to respect organic farmers and ensure organic food is economically viable so such farmers have an incentive to grow ecologically-friendly crops. We are now asking the government to set up organic enable outlets up to the taluk level across the State.”

Several film personalities including actors Nassar and Rohini, and film directors like Vasanthabalan also turned up at the event.

Well-known Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna who also attended, said: “In India, the organic movement is considered largely elitist. Events like this democratise organic food and spread awareness about its importance to everyone. The higher price of organic food items should not be the reason for anyone to not choose organic food. The government needs to make it more affordable.”

The Alliance is planning to conduct several such awareness campaigns in IT companies, colleges and schools across the city, followed by a nationwide campaign.

Contributions to the initiative and the petition can be made by voting online at http://www.indiaforsafefood.in.

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