Hunger and malnutrition is an issue that governments around the world are grappling with and its impact can be felt more severely in the developing and under-developed nations.
India is no different in this regard; we stand towards the bottom of 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 deeply alarming, global biotech giants such as Monsanto have a dangerous plan to ride the wave of the hunger issue, by promoting false solutions such as Genetically Modified (GM) crops as a panacea to food security.
Unfortunately agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture are parroting the same argument like the global biotech giants put forward and are side-stepping the real issues with food security in India. This is an attempt to bring GM crops into the country, overriding massive public opposition, especially from respected scientists, civil society and other stakeholders.
While the 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 the last decade the increase in food production in India kept pace with the population growth trend.
Media reports also indicate that India's 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 India activists on Wednesday occupied the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) warehouse in Delhi and unfurled a banner that read, 'SAY NO TO GM, YES TO FOOD SECURITY'.
Through this effort, and through the careful selection of the location, the activists sent a strong message to the 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 a 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 from policymakers who are pursuing the path of techno-fixes instead of real implementable solutions.
They were 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. We hope that the message that our activists sent out is an eye-opener for policymakers that GM is no silver bullet for hunger.
The global experience of GM crops shows how this technology is being rejected by a majority of countries. In the last 17 years since its introduction, only 3% of the world's agricultural land is under GM cultivation. There is also no evidence that this technology will improve food security or increase yields.
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 that also threaten the livelihood of small and marginal farmers. So embracing GM crops, as its promoters would like, would be suicidal for a country such as India.
The action this week sends a message to policymakers not to get distracted by techno-fixes such as GM crops and instead focus on real solutions that include sustainable food production systems, an efficient distribution system and ensuring job security for all citizens.
This would be a real way forward for our country and for the world, to be food secure, now and in the future.
Neha Saigal, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India
Read Greenpeace India's report on GM crops
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