PMO accepts Indian flag made from organic cotton which did not come from Monsanto’s cotton seed
Citizens across 20 states of India came together at Jantar Mantar today for a day-long sit-in and marched towards the Parliament demanding immediate withdrawal of BRAI bill 2013.
© Karan Vaid/Greenpeace
The protest comes after the Union government recently introduced the BRAI Bill, 2013 in Parliament in the last budget session. This Bill has been facing strong opposition inside parliament and outside as it will facilitate the fast track entry of GM food crops into our agriculture. The Bill proposes to set up a centralised single window clearance system which is designed to lower the bar for GM crop approvals with no independent long-term safety assessments or need assessment of a particular GM product. It also takes away the decision-making power of state governments on open field trials in their states. Furthermore, it proposes to override the RTI Act. The bill is currently under review of the Parliamentary Standing committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest.
From the protest, Neha Saigal, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace India said, “The BRAI Bill is India’s Monsanto Protection and Promotion Act, it will give a free hand to Monsanto and other Biotech giants to control our food security and endanger small farmer livelihoods. In order to protect our seed sovereignty it is important that notorious corporations like Monsanto along with their controversial GM technology Quit India.”
The gathering also urged farmers in the country to follow the path of agro-ecological farming in consonance with nature and also with due recognition for women farmers. They also urged the government stop promoting GMOs and invest urgently in sustainable agricultural solutions to ensure food and livelihood security. The main demand was that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests recommend to the government that the BRAI bill be withdrawn.
Rajesh Krishnan, Co-Convenor of the Coalition for a GM Free India said, “At this critical juncture in Indian agriculture, clearing the BRAI Bill to ensure speedy clearance for GMOs will be detrimental to the interests of our citizens. Indian cotton farmers have already experienced the devastating consequences of the takeover of their seeds and fields by Monsanto through its proprietary Bt cotton. We can’t surrender our food and farming to the onslaught of GMOs and multinational seed companies like Monsanto. Seed is a matter of sovereignty and this is our struggle to ensure that others don’t take control over our seeds and food”.
The persistence of the protestors ensured that a delegation from among them met with V. Narayanasamy, the Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office. He was given the organic flag and memorandum asking the government to withdraw the BRAI bill and uphold the country’s seed sovereignty by rejecting GM crops.
Pointing to the increasing evidence on the negative impacts of GM crops, Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) also present at the event, said “The final report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of Supreme Court has clearly stated that open air field trials of GM crops needs to be stopped and the effort to introduce biotechnology in food crops is not advisable. Even last year the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (PSC) emphasised that protection of biosafety is of paramount importance and it asked for the creation of a comprehensive biosafety protection authority instead of the current BRAI. Why is the government ignoring these highly credible reports and promoting GMOs and pushing the flawed BRAI Bill?”
Murli Manohar Joshi a leading politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) addressing the protestors © Karan Vaid/Greenpeace
The protesters also demanded that all the political parties should pay heed to the democratic voices that are opposing GMOs in our food and farming and declare their commitment to ecological farming, and take a firm stand against GMOs in our food, farming and environment.
In response, cutting across party lines senior leaders from various political parties including BJP, Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party, DMK etc. addressed the gathering and pledged their support in the struggle to keep our food and farming free from GM crops. Several also promised to oppose the BRAI Bill in the Parliament.