Farmers demand ban on GM crops

“United we stand”: Farmers demonstrating in New Delhi on Tuesday in protest against the Genetically Engineered food crops.

“United we stand”: Farmers demonstrating in New Delhi on Tuesday in protest against the Genetically Engineered food crops.   | Photo Credit: – Photo: S. Subramanium

Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of farmers under the banner of “Coalition for a GM-Free India” gathered here on Tuesday to demand a total ban on genetically modified (GM) crops and food saying it would affect not only humans but livestock, soil and environment. They urged the political parties to take a categorical stand on GM technology in the run-up to the coming general elections. “It is an unwanted, irretrievable, undesirable technology,” they asserted.

The protesters were supported in their call by representative of political parties across the spectrum. Celebrities like Milind Soman, Nafisa Ali, Nandita Das, Amla Akkineni, Sonal Mansingh and Rabbi Shergill also declared their support to the call for a GM-free India. Vandana Shiva, Yudvir Singh and members of Bharatiya Kisan Union also participated in the protest.

Addressing the farmers, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said GM crops were yet another attempt by corporates to take over Indian agriculture. He said to allow Bt brinjal trials was a discreet decision of the government to bring in GM and other such technologies without informed consent of the stakeholders concerned in the name of a second green revolution.

Rajya Sabha member K. Malaisamy and his colleagues from the AIADMK said they supported the movement not for any political motive but out of concern for agriculture and farmers as GM crops would affect the entire country.

The protest comes at a time when Indian regulators were considering applications for (experimental) seed production for Mahyco’s Bt brinjal, the first such genetically modified vegetable in the world. Criticising the “false bogey” of GM crops being the answer to food security, the Coalition said experience with GM soybean had shown that the largest cultivated GM crop in the world had actually shown a decrease in yields with genetic modification. Further, genetic engineering as a technology could not increase productivity since yield was a “multi-genetic” function, said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

The protesters pointed out that if Bt brinjal was allowed into India, the choice to choose between Bt brinjal and normal brinjal would be completely lost for the consumers, as the system of segregation and labelling was not defined in India.

They pointed out that “this kind of tinkering with food security and the nation’s health was totally undemocratic for any government”. At a time when organic and ecological farming was gaining ground it was “reckless” on the part of the government to even allow GM field trials. In a memorandum submitted to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, representatives of the farmers urged him to disallow any more open-air experiments with GM food crops and demanded that the government invoke the precautionary principle and ban release of GM crops and foods in the country.

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