Ban on genetic engineering demanded

HYDERABAD Dec. 4. A Public Forum on "Genetic engineering, agriculture and farmers rights'' here on December 2 and 3, attended by farmers, scientists, environmentalists and activists from different countries, has demanded a total ban on genetic engineering.

Recognising that it was farmers and farming communities in the Indian subcontinent that kept the diversity alive, the Forum has categorically said there was no place for transgenic crops in Asia or elsewhere in the world.

A declaration highlighting the two-day deliberations called, `Hyderabad Statement of Solidarity', was released at a press conference here on Wednesday. It was addressed by P. V. Satheesh, Henk Hobbelink and Farhad Mazhar, representing the Deccan Development Society (DDS), Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) and South Asia Network for Food Ecology and Culture (SANFEC) respectively, which organised the forum. SANFEC was formed by over 200 civil society groups in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. Participants of the Forum hailed from diverse agricultural and social background from South and South East Asia, Africa and Europe.

The declaration demanded full respect for farmers' rights, prohibiting the privatisation and monopolization of biodiversity or traditional knowledge. Speaking against patents or any other kind of intellectual property rights on life, the Forum said genetic engineering violated natural processes by transferring foreign strands of DNA from one organism to another, even across species barriers. The altered genes and the end product are then regarded by the new IPR-regime as inventions of human intervention and therefore intellectual property.

The activists traced the global processes threatening the genetic engineering industry and said the Indian subcontinent was becoming "the major theatre for GE industry.'' As Europe firmly continued its resistance against GE foods, Latin American countries like Argentina and Mexico record a string of GE disasters and the African continent bravely refuses to be destroyed under the GE aid, "the focus of the GE industry is sharpened on the Indian subcontinent.''

They condemned the recently attempted collaborative project between the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University at Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Syngenta, an agro-chemical multinational corporation and wanted all such research proposals to be made transparent and subjected to public scrutiny. The Forum felt outraged at the proposed MoU and condemned the attempted biopiracy of the heritage, rights of farmers and physical removal of rice germplasm from a national agricultural research centre by the MNC.

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