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A joint campaign against GM crops, Biotechnology Bill

The Hindu, New Delhi, 26th June, 2013

Cutting across party lines, several political leaders participated on Tuesday in a joint campaign with civil society groups and farmers’ organisations against Genetically Modified crops and the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill at Jantar Mantar here.

Participating in the campaign CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury declared that he would support the organisers — Coalition for GM-free India — on the streets and oppose the Bill in Parliament. “We do not need a bio-regulatory bill. We need a bio-safety law.”

Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal said his party was opposed to genetically modified crops and his colleague Prashant Bhushan had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court against it. “The Aam aadmi is unaware of GM crops and the BRAI. He/she does not understand it. If they did, then this demonstration site [at Jantar Mantar] would have been milling with people as it concerns their health and safety. Regulation spells corruption and our party is striving to change the political system that breeds corruption.”

The former BJP ideologue, Govindacharya, was quick to come out with a suggestion that the coalition form small groups of people who could fan out in the country to spread awareness about genetically modified organisms and BRAI.

CPI’s National Council member Dinesh Vasnik said his party would fight on these issues inside and outside Parliament. He warned against foreign aids and grants for agriculture research, seminars and such programmes that were meant to promote the agenda of multi-national companies.

Gurnam Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union in Haryana wondered why the government was in a hurry to promote GM seeds when farmers and consumers were opposing it. “When the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Supreme Court have said there is not need for GM crops, then why is the government allowing surreptitious field trails? Why is the government shying from an open debate on this issue.”
Success of green revolution

Recalling the green revolution, Mr. Singh said that farmers have enhanced grains production since Independence to such an extent that today the godowns were overflowing with grains. There is no storage capacity.

“Still half the land in the country is waiting to be exploited. There is was no irrigation facility. If the government provides water for irrigation, then farmers can raise production even higher. If the government persists with the GM/BRAI path, then farmers and consumers will unite to oppose it on the streets,’’ he warned.

While Nikhil De of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan bemoaned the lack of Right to Information on GM crops, Devendra Sharma said BRAI and GM crops were being opposed as “prevention is better than cure.”Single-window clearance to GM seeds

He said BRAI provided for single-window, fast clearance to GM seeds. “It is meant to suppress the voice of farmers and consumers and does not even allow the States the right to decide if they want field trials. Scientists do not speak up for the fear of losing their jobs. Companies like Monsanto decide the fate of farmers and farming in countries like the U.S. and governments tweak their regulations to ensure profits for them,” he said.

Among others who participated in the campaign were Bharat Krishak Sangh’s Krishnabir Choudhary, farmer leaders Laxman Singh, Naresh Sirohi, former journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik and Greenpeace activist Rachna.