on August 8th, demanding GMOs, BRAI, Monsanto... Quit India
Chennai, : The massive public debate and opposition to Genetically Modified crops will be touching a new high in the first week of the monsoon session of the Parliament with thousands of citizens from around 20 states coming together at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on this , on the eve of Quit India Day. Several farmer groups of Tamil Nadu are also joining this assembly in Delhi.
This is part of the public campaign launched by the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanding that the Union Government stop promotion of GM crops which are a threat not only to the health of our citizens, our environment and farm livelihoods but also to the nation's sovereignty itself. The Coalition has called for a day-long dharna and a march to the Parliament demanding that GMOs, BRAI and Monsanto... Quit India! The protest is expected to draw in all major political parties in addition to all major farmer unions of the country.
“We are assembling in big numbers on the eve of 'Quit India' day to send a strong message to our government that citizens of this country are not going to allow the government to sell away our food, farming and freedom to corporate interests” said Selvam Ramaswamy, Member, Coalition for a GM-Free India and President of Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation. He further stated that “global experience in the handful of countries that have opted for GM crops has shown that transgenic crops benefit none other than their developers, even as numerous problems are emerging on the ground with the use of these crops (superweeds, superpests, contamination of other crops etc.). The developers have ended up earning huge royalties, in addition to getting control of the seed market through proprietary GM technology. This is the case with Bt cotton in India too”.
The protest at Parliament Street comes at a time when the Union government has introduced the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013 in Parliament in the last (budget) session. This Bill has been facing strong opposition inside and outside the parliament as it would facilitate the fast track entry of GMOs into our agriculture and environment. The Bill proposes to set up a centralised single window clearance system which is designed to lower the bar for GM crop approvals with no independent long-term safety assessments or need assessment of a particular GM product. Besides this, it takes away the decision-making power of state governments on open field trials in their respective states. The Bill has also faced flak from RTI groups as it proposes to override the RTI Act.
Pointing to the fact that BRAI is nothing but a 'Monsanto Promotion and Protection Act', Ananthasayanan of Safe Food Alliance said that “at a time when various credible bodies including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up by the Supreme Court have reccommend for a precautionary approach towards modern biotechnology in our food and farming, it is absolutely unacceptable that the Union government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture, continues to promote GM crops. Meanwhile, our message is also to Monsanto which has voluntarily withdrawn from Europe citing public rejection of GMOs; Monsanto should realise that there is massive public opposition to its products even here in India: we ask it to quit India”.
Both the Standing Committee as well as the TEC reports talk about the need for a robust regulatory system for GMOs with biosafety as the main mandate. The BRAI Bill which was introduced by the Science and Technology Ministry is now under review by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests.
Thousands have been writing to the Standing Committee asking it to recommend to the government the immediate withdrawal of the BRAI Bill, to be replaced by a Biosafety Protection law instead (1).
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