Organic farmers from the Mysore region have launched a programme to create public awareness on the harmful effects of the bio-tech food and vegetables and mobilise their voice against the introduction of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) brinjal into the market.
One such awareness programme held recently in Dharwad was a big success with good response from farmers and others, and they plan to have more such programmes in other parts of the state, State Organic Farming Mission member Vivek Cariappa said here in Mysore.
“We plan to distribute handbills and pamphlets warning farmers and the general public of risks to come from genetically-modified organisms in our food,” he said.
Explaining the present position on the release of Bt brinjal seeds, he said the Genetic Engineering Approval (GEAC), the regulatory authority for transgenic crops in India, was only the first step towards commercialisation of the seed. Many steps in the protocol required by law still remain before the seeds can be bought across the counter legally. They comprise of approval by the Environment and Forest, Science and Technology, Agriculture and RDPR ministries. Public hearing is still to be held.
Welcoming public apprehension on the introduction of Bt brinjal, Vivek and Julie Cariappa, organic farmers in H D Kote with over two decades of field experience, said, “It is a wake up call for us to act before politicians, scientists and corporates decide on the future of our food, seeds and genetic security. We must exercise our democratic right to be heard on such an important issue of national security.”
“To do so, we must inform ourselves of the issue of GM food and be ready to counter the GM lobby. We must insist on being informed of all public hearings on the issue well before the date, in all languages and to be held in all gram panchayats to ensure a democratic participation. We must remind the state governments that agriculture is a state subject and states are obliged to take a stand to formulate policies based on public opinion and the genetic security of the state,” the farm activist said.
The bio-diversity rich zones should be looked in the light of them being home to huge germplasm, home to thousands of medicinal plants and heritage sites and ensure any risks of transgenic contamination. The states have to make public the work being done in GM in their agricultural universities.
Vivek warned of the impact and dangers of Bt foods and vegetables on “our internationally acclaimed health systems such as ayurveda, unani, siddha and homeopathy, not to mention our ‘nati’ (local) medicine. We cannot risk losing our precious past to transgenic contamination.”
He warned Bt brinjal, which was not in great demand like any other essential commodity, could increase production, but gene jumping could destroy the rich agricultural system, destroying soil fertility hitting food production and increase health risk chances.