Meeting with health minister over GM food controversy in India (14/6/2006)

1.Civil society meeting with Health Minister
2.Bt brinjal stirs fresh controversy

Another good Indian TV channel (NDTV) report - item 2.


New Delhi: Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, is on the verge of approving large scale seed production and field trials of Bt Brinjal, developed by [Monsanto subsidiary] Mahyco.

Brinjal has been cultivated in India for more than 4,000 years and India is a Centre of Origin and diversity for the crop. This is for the first time in the country that a food crop might be given such a permission.

A civil society delegation comprising of people from more than ten states [major Brinjal growing states] are meeting Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, the Union Minister for Health on 14th June at 4 pm to discuss the issue with him. The delegation, drawn from a loose network called Coalition for GM-Free India, consists of representatives from leading farmers' organisations, consumer organisations, organic farming groups, unions, NGOs working on sustainable agriculture, representatives from the medical fraternity and so on.

There will be a Press conference to brief the media about the deliberations with the Minister and the serious concerns with regard to Bt Brinjal. Members of the delegation would address the press conference at 5.30 pm, after meeting the Minister.


*Devinder Sharma, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, Delhi *Vijay Jawandhia, Shetkari Sanghatan, Maharashtra *Dr Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Andhra Pradesh *Yudhvir Singh, Bhartiya Kisan Union UP, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan & other members of the delegation

Venue: Indian Women's Press Corps, Windsor Place, Janpath (23325366), Delhi
Time: 5.30 pm, June 14th 2006
For details call: 9811301857, 9818089660

2.Bt brinjal stirs fresh controversy
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

(New Delhi): Even while the controversy over BT Cotton rages a subsidiary of Monsanto, the company that's marketing BT cotton in India, is close to getting approval for large scale testing of genetically modified brinjal

Activists are enraged as the government is shrouding the whole process in secrecy without any public opinion being sought.

Greenpeace in its usual flamboyant style protested outside the Krishi Bhavan in Delhi against the mysterious cattle and goat deaths in Andhra Pradesh that occurred allegedly after they grazed on the BT cotton crop.

While a government inquiry into those deaths is still to be completed a proposal for large scale testing of BT brinjal is on the verge of being cleared. This has further enraged the activists.

The question Greenpeace is trying to raise is what do we really know about genetically modified food and its effect on humans.

"Before proceeding any further we must conduct a report on what has happened till now. It affects thousands. It's an inexplicable stand that the GEAC [Genetic Engineering Approval Committee] has taken.

It's well known when you engineer a crop toxins are created. I have no idea as to what tests have been conducted," said Dr Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign.

Concerns raised

It's a fear echoed by Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary of the Bharat Krishak Samaj who has been working on farmer welfare issues for years. He's now written to the GEAC, the nodal agency for approving genetically modified food.

"Bt cotton has failed in this country. It hasn't reduced dependence on pesticides. How can they think of introducing BT brinjal when farmers in Andhra are afraid to take their cattle through Bt cotton crop as they claim it leads to deaths?" said Chaudhary.

The European Union has so far resisted genetically modified food with big multinationals like Kellogs, Marks and Spencers and Wal Mart insisting on being GM free.

In America consumers don't have much choice. Agro giants have ensured that genetically modified food is not labelled as such and in India the issue is shrouded in secrecy. The public has been told too little to be able to decide.

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