Coalition for a GM-Free India celebrates Feb 9th as National Safe Food Day
New Delhi: February 9, 2012: On the second anniversary of the decision taken by the then Minister for Environment & Forests to declare a moratorium on Bt brinjal, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has decided to mark and celebrate February 9th as National Safe Food Day!
Two years back, tens of thousands of Indians had spoken loudly and clearly to say that we do not want GM food. More than 8000 people attended the public consultations and the Minister took the moratorium decision saying it was “responsible to science and responsive to society” and we agree!
Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition said, “On this day we request the Government of India to continue to keep India free of GM food and exhort all Indians to remember that our food safety, food security and food sovereignty are in our hands! We can’t allow our children’s food to be contaminated by GMOs or to be laced with poisonous pesticides or additives. We need to become vigilant stewards of our food and agriculture and every one of us should take ownership!”
The Coalition also considers the moratorium only as a pause, however; there are deeply disturbing developments on the GM crops front in India. GEAC has been regularly granting approvals for field trials and for the next two seasons, 38 GMOs across 13 crops in 16 states have been approved. Every field trial is an open-air release of an untested, new organism in Nature and consequently a threat to biodiversity, given the unproven, imprecise, unpredictable, uncontrollable and irreversible nature of the technology. The threat is compounded by numerous biosafety violations that are regularly taking place during various field trials with impunity and without any liability fixed for such violations by the regulators.1
Further, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) which is slated to be tabled in Parliament to replace GEAC and the current imperfect regulatory mechanism has fundamental flaws in its design, including due to its inherent conflict of interest. As per the Bill the regulatory authority will be under the Ministry of Science & Technology which through its Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is mandated to promote GM crops. Therefore the promoter and regulator will be the same!2
GM technology in agriculture is being promoted in India, as a way to reduce pesticide use; already reports from the field indicate that within the first decade pesticide usage in Bt cotton fields has gone up and pest resistance build-up has been documented by the NARS scientists. Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops which are under field trials are pesticide promoting crops as they encourage the blanket use of patented herbicides to control weeds.
More peer-reviewed scientific evidence has emerged in the meantime about more environmental, human health problems of GM crops while reports from the field about increased pest resistance, emergence of super weeds, contamination of water bodies are coming from all over. One of the latest studies has shown that Bt protein consumed through GM food can move from the intestine to the blood stream and from there to the foetus.
The United States which has the maximum area under GM crops is reeling under the “super-weeds” crisis; already 21 weed species have developed resistance to the glyphosate herbicide used along with the HT GM crop and the problem has spread to over 15 million acres of farm land. Pesticide usage (herbicides, weedicides, and insecticides) on GM crops has increased manifold in the decade and a half since the introduction of GM crops. Reports from Latin America detail health problems due to widespread use of glyphosate, the patented herbicide used along with HT crops.
“European countries have almost completely stopped GM crop cultivation within their borders. Transnational biotech companies are exiting from Europe citing that “it does not make business sense” to continue because of sustained opposition from farmers, consumers and policy makers. It is clear from the above statement that these corporations are not in the business of GM seeds to feed the hungry, but to fill their coffers”, said Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convener of the Coalition. It is time that exited from India too, he said.
Events that have unfolded around the world since the moratorium clearly shows that GM crops are on the way out and India should in no way open the doors for this outdated, unpredictable and unsafe technology. On the other hand, clear evidence is emerging that safe and sufficient food for all can be ensured through sustainable agriculture adopting agro-ecological approaches; once again we exhort the government and people to ensure that all Indians have access to Safe Food, by asking the Prime Minister of India to scrap the faulty BRAI Bill and by urging the Minister for Environment and Forests to ensure that the bar on regulation is not lowered in any way but only improved !
For more details contact :
Sridhar Radhakrishnan : 09995358205
Pankaj Bhushan : 09472999999
Nishank – 0901586930