Mass Protests against GM Crops in India

ISIS Press Release 30/04/08

Kavitha Kurunganti reports from Tarnaka, India

India-wide coalition against GM Brinjal in the wake of toxic GM cotton

As India edges closer to what is probably the last year of field trials for Bt Brinjal (eggplant, aubergine) before commercial approval may be granted, large scale resistance has been building up all over the country.

Bt Brinjal, if allowed in India, would be the first food crop in the world with the Bt gene inserted into it that is to be directly consumed by human beings. Indians feel that they are about to be made guinea pigs by USAID, and by Monsanto and Cornell University that have developed this crop.

For the past six years, Indian farmers have experienced the stark realities of GM crop cultivation in the country in the form of Bt cotton. Reports continue to pour in from various districts of Andhra Pradesh including Adilabad, Warangal and Nalgonda on animal illnesses and deaths after grazing on Bt cotton fields. Farmers and shepherds have been reporting the toxic effects of Bt cotton on livestock since 2003 (see Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton, SiS 30). But the regulators continue to rubbish the reports. Farmers and workers experience allergic reactions during harvest of Bt cotton, with scores of victims in different states (see More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops, SiS 30). However, the governments have not even begun to acknowledge that.

To make matters worse, the ecology of cotton pests has altered drastically and Bt cotton farmers are dealing with newer pests and diseases. Last season’s infestation of mealy bug, a sucking pest, has resulted in pesticides sales shooting up steeply in several states including Punjab.

For farmers who wish to remain GM-free or organic, they find it almost impossible to get non-GM seed. Hundreds of organic farmers are placing special orders directly with seed companies for non-transgenic seed, as it is not readily available from retailers.

It is at this juncture that farmers’ unions, consumer organizations, environmental groups, development organizations and concerned scientists have stepped up their protests against Bt Brinjal, realizing that the experience with Bt cotton cannot be allowed to be repeated, especially with a vegetable crop that is directly consumed by people.

A large informal network called “Coalition for GM Free India” was formed in 2006, representing organizations and individuals from more than 15 states of India. The Coalition has been active since then in raising awareness among civil society groups, media and the general public, and in creating an informed debate on GMOs. The Coalition also sees resistance to GM crops in a larger framework of democratization of policy-making in science and technology for the country. Members believe that farmers’ science and knowledge, especially with regard to ecological farming, is the only sustainable way forward for farming in India.

Read the rest of this article here //www.i-sis.org.uk/gmProtestsIndia.php



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