One hundred and forty characters seem like nothing- but on Twitter, they can mean a lot. Being able to reach out to thousands of individuals (and maybe some bots) within a couple of minutes is a boon. If you can use this concept for good- it's even better.
That's what we did on Tuesday, 19th February 2013. We opened our handle and our minds to discuss, live, the very important issue of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Big Battle, India's first Twitter debate platform organised a one hour debate on "Genetically Modified Foods: Helpful or Harmful?" The panellists, Neha Saigal from Greenpeace India , Devinder Sharma (Food & Trade policy analyst), Mr GV Ramanjaneyulu (Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture), Mr Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Ravichandran (Farmer) answered questions asked by individuals and organisations.
People anti and pro GM alike logged on to Twitter to ask some very important questions which we replied to within a couple of minutes (there's more to the internet than lolcats! Who knew?). Within that one hour, we were able to reach over 9 lakh people, ergo 9 lakh timelines.
Some of the questions asked were serious, like, "#GMFood In country with malnutrition upto 200 million, do we have say for safe & risky food?"
And some of them were quite..um..philosophical, like, "Remember the old saying, If you wait for the wind, the ship will never sail! Life is about risks. Life itself is a risk!" (Pro GM people saying that GM is a risk. Precious!).
Excitement was running through our room, where as soon as we were asked a question, we frantically searched for reports to validate the (140 characters long) points we were making. This was all done to the tune of Gangnam Style (no, we're not over K-Pop yet).
On a more serious note, it was great to see supporters (old and new) rising up against GM food by retweeting our answers and further spreading the message. The debate concluded with The Big Battle saying that the government's regulation is not only important, but a necessity to research GM food intensively before introducing it in the country .
It was an inspiring experience. Engaging with so many people within an hour, through an online micro blogging platform debate is definitely something we'll take up again in the near future.
Rachita Taneja is a digital campaigner.