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Coalition for a GM-free India documents on Bt brinjal / Devinder Sharma on GM and farmers' suicides (19/7/2006)

Below is a letter to the Prime Minister of India from the notable Indian food and trade policy analyst, Dr Devinder Sharma, which was sent in relation to the following documents which are now available on the GM Watch website.

These documents form part of the response sent by the Coalition for a GM-Free India, to India's GM regulatory body - the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) - on the biosafety data and the proposal by Monsanto Mahyco for field trials & seed production of Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine).

The Coalition's response was endorsed by more than 250 leading organisations & eminent experts from various fields including farmers' organisations, organic farmers, agricultural scientists, microbiologists, medical professionals, and social scientists, amongst others.

The Coalition also told the GEAC that it strongly objected to the fact that the GEAC had stated in a press release on July 3rd that it WILL permit the trials, even while it was asking for feedback on the proposal to hold the trials! This, the Coalition said, was not just unacceptable but rendered the entire regulatory process farcical.

THE DOCUMENTS

Bt brinjal 1: Feedback on Bt Brinjal – biosafety & beyond (Letter to the Chairperson of India's GM regulatory body) http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6772

Bt brinjal 2: Signatories to the letter [1-120]
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6773

Bt brinjal 3: Signatories to the letter [121-270]
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6774

Bt brinjal 4: Annex 1
Letter to India's Minister for the Environment http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6775

Bt brinjal 5: More annexes
includes: a note by Dr Arpad Pusztai
a note from an Ayurveda expert (vaidya)
comments on Monsanto Mahyco's claims
comments by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6776

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July 18, 2006

Dr Manmohan Singh
Hon'ble Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi-110 001.

Sub: GM Crops, Farmer Suicides and Nation's health

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Your recent visit to Vidharba region in Maharashtra has brought the tragic issue of farmers suicide back into the limelight. Among the various reasons being cited for the serial death dance that continues unabated, I feel the most important is the role of unwanted technology in acerbating the agrarian crisis -- it has led to the destruction of natural resource base, thereby adding to the cost of cultivation resulting in increased indebtedness and eventually led the farmers to the gallows.

Unfortunately, the role of technology is not at all being mentioned and for obvious reasons. Chemical fertilisers, pesticides and the water guzzling crops have actually added to farmer woes. Farmers suicides is a reflection of the collapse of Green Revolution.

It is a historic fact that the Green Revolution technology was the dire need for a hungry nation in the late 1960s. But Sir, eventually the blind promotion of such a technology resulted in second-generation environmental impacts that were clearly visible in the 1980s. But instead of going in for what I call as 'mid-term correction', agriculture scientists pushed in more green revolution or in other words promoted still more intensive farming methods. Coming with a credit system that encouraged such unwanted technologies, farmers were pushed deeper and deeper into a 'chakravyuah' (the trap).

The challenge for the nation is to pull the farmers out of the 'chakravyuah'.

Instead, it is shocking to find that those who were responsible for the agriculture debacle are now pushing in the Second Green Revolution. In other words, instead of pulling farmers out of the trap, we are pushing them still deeper. Living in the past, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) continue to pat themselves on back for the first Green Revolution. They have been honoured enough for the success of the first Green Revolution. Isn't it time that we hold them responsible for the prevailing agrarian crisis and the spate of serial death dance?

Mr Prime Minister, farmer suicides is not a collatoral damage. It is a ghastly crime for which the nation must take a collective responsbility. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has himself accepted that over 100,000 farmers have committed suicide in the period 1993-2003. Isn't it strange that if a bridge collapse in the cities kills a few people the engineers are held accountable. If a patient dies in the hospital from doctors negligence, we hold the doctor responsible. But when over 100,000 farmers die, we do nothing but to apologise !

One of the unwanted and risky technologies that is being blindly pushed are the Genetically Modified (GM) crops. Instead of first drawing a balance sheet on what has actually gone wrong and where as far as the Green Revolution is concerned, the undue haste in promoting GM crops only raises eyebrow. We all know for sure now that Bt cotton (the first GM crop to be commercialised in the country) was one of the significant factors in pushing more and more farmers to commit suicide in Vidharba, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. And yet, no lessons have been learnt. No one has been held accountable.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committe

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