Chandigarh, May 24th: Scores of Chandigarh citizens hit the streets to join the global March Against Monsanto organised by the Coalition for a GM-Free India(Chandigarh Chapter). They walked through Sector 17 holding placards as a message to the Punjab Government and the newly formed NDA Government at the Centre, that adopting GM crops in the country is a backward step for science and national progress. The protests took place in many cities around the country including Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Coimbatore. March Against Monsanto is a global call to action aimed at informing the public, calling into question the long-term health risks of GM crops/foods and calling action from decision makers not to allow a risky technology like GM into our food and agriculture and demanding that multinational corporations like Monsanto quit India.
“Monsanto’s aim is to control the global food and agriculture systems for profiteering. It is the world’s largest seed company, controlling 23% of the proprietary seed market and in India too, aided actively by conducive policies and lax regulation, it is consolidating its position as a major seed company in different crops. It’s a company that has not hesitated to sue and jail farmers in the name of IPRs. Monsanto is being allowed by governments to recast regulatory frameworks to suit its interests, and is seen to manipulate politicians and officials in the developing world to push its GM (genetic modification) technology, herbicides and proprietary hybrids,” said Raman Mann of The Campaign for a GM-Free Chandigarh. She further added that Monsanto now controls around 93% of India’s cotton seed market after GM seeds in the form of Bt cotton were allowed into India, actively supported by policy makers.
Umendra Dutt, Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission, added that “Genetically modified (GM) crops are not the way forward for Indian Agriculture or food security as they pose a huge risk to human/animal health, environment and livelihoods of farmers, there is increasing scientific evidence to show the same. The increasing use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has caused a sharp increase in the rise of chronic diseases in the people of Punjab. GMO’s, have been founded to be harmful to health and there are over 400 scientific studies to prove this fact. Punjab has okayed open-field trials of over 200 varieties of wheat and other foodgrains. The MOU signed by the Punjab Government with Monsanto should be scrapped and the programme of intensive farming of Bt cotton involving high usage of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers be abandoned. Today, we are here to tell the government and fellow citizens what exactly do Monsanto and GMOs symbolise, and why they should be banned”. He further added that the regulatory authority at the Centre, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) has continued to ignore these risks and has approved field trials for GM crops for staple crops like rice and wheat with a huge potential to contaminate our food supply. It is very important that the Prime Minister-Designate Narendra Modi takes a precautionary approach to GM crops, even as more countries are rejecting GMOs.
“The SAD-led Government in Punjab should not allow field trials for GM crops in the State given the widespread opposition from all quarters of society as well as the emerging scientific evidences. The State Government must oppose this risky technology in our food and farming,” said Dr. Pyara Lal Garg, of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti.
Chandigarh citizens demanded their right to safe food and control over what they grow and eat. They demanded that the Punjab government continue to promote organic farming as the main approach for the farming in the state, and realise that GMOs in our food and farming are antithetical to sustainable agriculture. They pointed out that Punjab’s position as a pioneer in agriculture production in the country and around the world is getting jeopardised with the threat of GM crops.
As a mark of solidarity, children from ‘Theatre Age’ wrote out the slogan “Safe Food. No Monsanto” with candles in the plaza area and were joined by participants who also lit candles. The gathering was addressed by Umendra Dutt, Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. The participants put their signatures on a banner under the slogan ‘No GMO. No Monsanto’ which will be presented later to Punjab’s Chief Minister Mr. Prakash Singh Badal along with a memorandum signed by over 10,000 concerned signed citizens from the state.