Hunger and malnutrition is an issue that governments around the world are grappling with and its manifestations can be felt more severely in the developing and under-developed nations. India is no different in this regard; we stand way below in the Global Hunger Index, at 65th out of 88 nations, worse than many Sub-Saharan African countries. While half of the children are under-weight in our country and a third of them malnourished, a situation that is not only alarming but also concerning, global biotech giants like Monsanto have a dangerous plan to take advantage of this situation of hunger by promoting false solutions like Genetically Modified (GM) crops as a panacea to food security.
Unfortunately responsible agencies in the country like the Ministry of Agriculture are parroting the same Malthusian argument like the global biotech giants and side-stepping the real issues with food security in India. This is also an attempt to bring GM crops into the country, over-ridding massive public opposition, especially from respected scientists, civil society and other stakeholders from across the country.
While the Agriculture ministry continues to worry about the food security situation in the country, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, in a report tabled in 2012, stated that during the last decade the increase in food production in India has kept pace with the population growth trend. Media reports also indicate that India government is sitting on one of World's biggest hoards of food grains, while millions of Indians go to bed hungry. The country is also ranked 1st in the world in fresh fruit production, milk production and production of pulses and 2nd in the world in the production of fresh vegetables.
In this context, 17 Greenpeace activists today occupied the Food Corporation of India's (FCI) godown in Delhi and unfurled a banner that read, "SAY NO TO GM, YES TO FOOD SECURITY'. Twelve of them have been detained.
Through this effort, and through the careful selection of the location, the activists sent a strong message to the Agriculture Minister that GM is definitely not a route to food security in the country. This act also reiterated the fact that the real solution lies in adopting a more holistic view of food security with focus on addressing the concerns on storage, distribution and mismanagement of stocks
These activists echoed the voice of a million Indians starving everyday due to the lack of vision of the policy makers who are pursuing the path of techno-fixes instead of real implementable solutions.
They were infact reiterating the concerns raised by more than 150 eminent scientists from around the country and credible civil society groups like the Right To Food Campaign. The effort also comes at an opportune time as the Indian Prliament prepares to start its buget session tomorrow.
We hope that the message that our activists are sending out is an eye-opener for policy makers that GM is no silver bullet for food security.
The global experience of GM crops only shows the rejection of this technology by majority of countries and in the last 17 years of its introduction, only 3% of the agricultural land is under GM cultivation. There is also no evidence till date that this technology will improve food security or increase yield.
The Bt cotton experience in India is an eye-opener and spells out every reason why GM crops are not the way forward. Ten years of Bt cotton cultivation raises many a question on its sustainability. The Bt cotton case also proves that GM is an extension of the input intensive agricultural practices is also a threat to livelihood security of small and marginal farmers. So embrace GM crops as its promoters would like, would be suicidal for a country like India.
Finally food safety is an important pillar of food security and there is growing scientific evidence on the health and environmental risks of GM crops. This is acknowledged by both scientific bodies like the Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court and political bodies like the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
The question of food security has been making ripples across the world as we grow in numbers year after year. Today, our activist in India are sending a message to our policy makers not to get distracted by techno-fixes like GM crops and instead focus on real solutions which lie in a multi-pronged approach with includes sustainable food production systems, efficient distribution system and ensuring livelihood security for all citizens, which is a way forward for our country and for the world, to be food secure, now and in the future.
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Neha Saigal is a Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner with Greenpeace India