Dr. Venkata Reddy is a physician and serves in a hospital in Doddaballapur near Bangalore. He is also proud to practice his family profession, agriculture. Being a farmer and physician he probably knows the culprit behind the endless health troubles that we face today. It is the food we eat. I think many of us are probably destined to hear about pesticides in food or hormones in veggies or about the issues with Bt Brinjal in papers every other week or on some occasions -news channels. Most of us are helpless to do anything and are sitting ducks for the massive artillery of toxic chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being shot at our farms, food , our bodies, children, pets and the disastrous side effects of such chemicals (and GMOs) on the environment, wildlife and biodiversity of this planet.
Fortunately some are not. Like Dr. Venkata Reddy, who is also the Vice President of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) (Karnataka State Farmers Association) got to know that a field of DuPont’s (remember paints and synthetic fibres) genetically modified (GM) rice was right there in their town, Doddaballapur. There were obvious incongruities in the situation that the farmers of KRRS had at hand. There was GM rice right in the town and it belonged to a transnational company. But the field was being patronised by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of Doddaballapur.
Why would a KVK of the state funded agricultural university provide land and assist a private company? Funding and research collaboration? To make things worse, the panchayat head Mr. Nagaraj did not know anything about the presence of an untested and unpredictable GM rice field in the village Adonahalli. Dr. Reddy was not probably aware that this strategy of recruiting the best of the state nourished agricultural universities to do secondary GM rice research has been the modus operandi of the companies like Monsanto, Dow Agro sciences and DuPont to get an easy approval for their GM products in India.
The most contradictory part is Karnataka’s Chief Minister Mr. B.S.Yeddyurappa’s statement in February early this year, “There is no question of taking any decision that will harm the long-term interest of the farmers for the sake of short-term gains. If the farmers do not want Bt Brinjal, then I am with them.”
It was like Mr. Yeddyurappa got a statement from the farmers that they would love DuPont’s GM rice over Mahyco- Monsanto Bt brinjal! Or was it just another political trick the farmers have been subjected to every time a politician wants to earn votes?
Determined to the core that they didn’t want to submit their livelihoods to a transnational company nor have unsafe and untested GM rice amidst their fields causing long lasting damage to the health and safety – they had only one way out.
On the morning of 17th November 2010, a group of 70 farmers stormed the field trial site of GM rice in Adonahalli village, cut off the GM rice with their scathes before they could be stopped by the police. Many of them were arrested and later released on bail after getting booked for trespassing and property destruction .
I was told about a protest that would happen in Doddaballapur a couple of days back and I rode down all the way to Doddaballapur to witness the event. What I saw was not just a protest, it was the farmers acting out of care for the nation – probably the birth of a revolution to stop a second mistake (GM crops) after the soil degradation and farmer expendable agriculture that swept us into an era of food insecurity, but to usher in safe and healthy farming, bringing in food security.
Some facts about DuPont GM rice: it’s a transgenic method for producing any kind of hybrid, the methodology uses three genes (from mushrooms and others) to make the male flowers sterile. The trial has been permitted by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of the Union government.
As we talk, field trials for different GM crops are underway in several parts of Karnataka. Dow's has trials underway for GM corn at the University of Agriculture Sciences Dharwad, GM tomatoes and papaya at the Horticultural Research Institute in Hessarghatta, near Bangalore. Nunhems is testing GM cauliflower and cabbage in its own farm near Bangalore. Pioneer’s GM corn and GM peanuts are under trial at the University of Agricultural Sciences Dharwad and University of Agriculture Sciences in Hebbal, Bangalore respectively.
It has been reported that the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore will stop any field trials of private companies in lands belonging to the state government. Nice to know, but would this hold only to territorial limits of Bangalore and not the district of Dharwad where the other agricultural university is in close collusion with Monsanto?
- Farmers stop 'secret' GM rice - The Times of India