On September 6, Greenpeace along with citizens for a GM free India prepared the World’s Biggest GM-Free Baingan Bharta. The whole exercise was fun and saw an audience of around 200 people which included farmer leaders like Yudhvir Singh and Chaudhary Ram Karan, Le Meridian executive chef Davender Kumar, other chefs from the Indian Culinary Forum, environmentalists like Vandana Shiva and Divan Singh and URJA [a confederation of Resident Welfare Associations in Delhi] secretary Mr Jasbir Chadda.
While preparing and savouring some really tasty and appetising Baingan Bharta, people from different backgrounds also expressed their opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods and the BRAI bill. On this day we not only created a world record by making 342.5 kg of organic, GM free Baingan Bharta but also started a movement against the corruption of our food with unsafe GM technology, with the support of over 1 lakh people behind us.
The World’s Biggest Baingan Bharta was a result of onground mobilisation of different organisations and individuals in Delhi and online mobiilsation of thousands across the country. This helped bring people together to visibly oppose the BRAI bill, a concern for all citizens of India as it takes the choice of safe food off our plates. This is far from appetising in comparison to our GM free Baingan Bharta.
In the last few weeks we visited different groups, talking about the BRAI bill and raising awareness about GM foods in India. What did come to us as a surprise was the extensive knowledge that the public had about the BRAI bill and its intentions. What didn’t surprise me was the negative sentiment towards GM technology in our food and farming. After every talk about the BRAI bill people were inspired to take action to stall this bill and send the message to the government: “DON’T CORRUPT OUR FOOD AND STOP THE BRAI BILL.”
We also took the issue to our leaders when Parliament was in session. Greenpeace activists came together with the intention of unfurling a banner which opposed the BRAI bill at Vijay Chowk. We were not given an opportunity to hold up the banner and 5 of our activists were detained by the police. They were released later.
One of the milestones in the public work was when Greenpeace along with South Asian Dialogue for Ecological Democracy (SADED) and “Coalition for GM free India” organised a consultation in Delhi on the BRAI Bill. The “Alliance for Safe Food” was born out of this consultation. The alliance drafted a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister opposing the BRAI bill which saw endorsements from around thirty organisations. This was a strong message of opposition sent to our Prime Minister.
For most of us the journey to the World’s Biggest GM-free Baingan Bharta has been an inspirational one. It has pulled together members of the public, each one of them concerned about GM in our food and wanting to work towards a GM free future for India. As a movement we have reason to celebrate as the BRAI bill was not introduced in the Parliament but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to keep our food safe from GM.
Image 1: © Greenpeace/Sharbendu De
Image 2: © Greenpeace/Shudhanshu Malhotra