A clarion call for ‘Right to Safe Food’ was issued from the precincts of Punjab Kala Bhavan here on Saturday as around 2,000 city residents thronged the Safe Food Festival to relish and buy organic food products.

Over 30 stalls of food products, a kitchen of traditional cuisine from the States of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in Bebe-Di-Rasoi (Grandmother's Kitchen) and cultural performances were the main attractions of the event.

Inaugurating the two-day event, Justice Surya Kant of the Punjab and Haryana High Court stressed that the ‘Right to Safe Food’ was inherent in the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.

“It is the duty of the government to provide citizens with chemical-free food. We have to effectively promote the alternative of safe food by not only strengthening the supporting market infrastructure for organic farmers but also to ensure that the food requirement of our population is easily met,’’ he said.

Justice Kant, himself an organic farmer, also pointed out that people were ready to shift to organic food provided they were offered the avenues.

Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma highlighted that the disappearance of traditional crop varieties was resulting in high incidence of lifestyle diseases.

“We used to grow varieties of wheat and rice which used to help us deal with risks of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. However, under the influence of international agencies, we welcomed cross-bred varieties which needed high dose of chemicals to give high yield. We have to understand that whenever yield increases, nutrition goes down. Currently, mad rush for GDP-linked development pushing junk food is resulting in unhealthy society,” he asserted.

Dr. J. S. Thakur, associate professor at community health department of PGIMER, shared the results of a scientific study linking pesticide usage to high incidence of cancer in Malwa region of Punjab. “Various cancers, including cancer of thyroid, breast, uterus, blood and esophagus were found to be linked to pesticide use which should act as an alarm bell for us,” he said.

Dr. Amar Singh Azad, working president of the Kheti Virasat Mission, revealed that chemical use in agriculture was resulting in hormonal changes causing premature puberty in girls, erectile dysfunction in men, spontaneous abortions, still births and genetic defects in the newborn.

Drawing parallels with medication, Hemant Goswami of the Servants of People Society pointed out that if a small quantity of medicine could have an effect on the human body, how “can we assume that heavy usage of pesticides in our food would not have any adverse impact.’’

Umendra Dutt, executive director of the Kheti Virasat Mission, questioned the government policy of not offering any assistance to organic farmers while subsidies worth crores were doled out to chemical farming with supporting mechanism for procurement and storage of crops.