Monsanto Quit India projection on India Gate, New Delhi

Candles in the wind and the voices of many Delhi residents, echoed at India Gate, chanting ‘Monsanto Quit India’. It was a solemn evening on a day that marked an important milestone in India’s struggle for freedom. It was the day on which the freedom fighters launched the Quit India Movement in 1942.

The Quit India Movement was launched by Mahatma Gandhi for India’s independence and had the spirit of non-violence and the eagerness to be free. The evening on the 9th of August 2011 lead by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Greenpeace and the residents of Delhi had a similar sentiment. The message this time was, “We want our food and farming to be free of risky technologies like GM crops and corporate control.”

What happened at India Gate and many other states across the country like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha was a glimpse of the history of Indian independence repeating itself. Thousands of people came on the streets saying, “We say No to GM crops, Monsanto Quit India,” sending a strong message to the government to take action.

People voicing their protest against GM crops in IndiaIt was inspiring to see people gather on a busy Tuesday evening at the national monument to take a pledge to keep risky technology like genetic engineering/modification (GE/GM) away from our food. The gathering sent a powerful message to Monsanto that they are not welcome in our country. Monsanto is a corporate giant largely responsible for the introduction of GM in our farming and is trying very hard to monopolise Indian agriculture.

There is enough scientific evidence now to show that GM crops are a risk to human health. Unfortunately our government, which is hand-in-gloves with multinational corporates like Monsanto, is trying to commercialise them in our country. This was a huge motive for concerned citizens to come together and protest.

The evening raised a lot of questions about what the government was doing to stop GE technology from entering our food chain and why are they supporting a corporate like Monsanto and putting the concerns of the Indian public aside. The most shameful fact is that our government is pushing for the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill which will become an autocratic single window clearance system for GM crops and override all public concerns and opposition to GM crops.

This peaceful gathering was just the beginning of a growing movement against GE in our food. What started as a rural issue for farmers is now an urban debate, which was very prevalent from the determined chants I heard in the heart of Delhi.

Image 1: © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra

Image 2: © Greenpeace / Harikrishna Katragadda