Farmers from 15 states protest, seek ban on GM crops and food

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New Delhi, May 6 (UNI) Hundreds of farmers and consumers from 15 states today converged near Parliament demanding a complete ban on Geneticaly Modified or Engineered (GM or GE) crops and food saying that such 'unsafe' cultivation and consumption, already rejected by a majority of countries, should not be thrust down on the unsuspecting Indians.

The protest came at a time when the Indian regulators were actively considering to allow the seed production of brinjal with Bt (Bacillus thurengiensis) gene, known as Bt Brinjal- the first GM vegetable yet to be commercially produced anywhere in the world.

The agitating assemblage was supported by six mainstream MPs and nd several well-known celebrities like Milind Soman, Nafisa Ali, Nandita Das, Amala Akkineni , Sonal Mansingh and Rabbi Shergill who pledged that they would remain GM-free and urge their followers to do so.

Addressing the protesters gathered under the borad banner of "Coalition for a GM-Free India", several speakers castigated the government for raising "false bogey of increased need for food security in India and which could be met with GM food only".

In fact, the Coalition leaders said, it was concocted and motivated presumption since the GM soyabean had proved that GM crops could not increase productivity since "yield is a 'multi-genic' function".

"If you take away lands from the agricultural use, cut down the goodgrains land and shift to bio-fuel production and live stock feed and if the government's policies are anti-farmer, how can food security be ensured?" the meet questioned.

The protest meet pointed out that if Bt Brinjal, promoted by Mahyco, a subsidiary of Monsanto- an American multinational, was allowed into India, the choice to choose between Bt Brinjal and non-GM brinjal would be completely lost for the consumers since the system of segregation and labelling were impossible in the country.

"This kind of tinkering with our food safety and our health is completely undemocratic for any government, particularly when organic and ecological farmiong is gaining ground both among the farmers and consumers", the meet in a memorandum submitted to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar at the end of daylong protest said.

"Allowing GM trials shows that the government lacks a vision for Indian farming and succumbing to the pressure and mechinations of multinational companies out to introduce an industrial dependent agriculture in the country," the meet said.

On the other hand, Mahyco said brinjal is an important vegetable in the Indian diet and the brinjal crop is heavily sprayed with the most destructive pesticide. Hence it needed insect-tolerant variety which is being produced as Bt Brinjal with help of advanced biotechnology. UNI JSS JT HS1757

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