Patna, Feb.9: As Indian Environment Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh gets set to announce the government’s decision on sale of Bt brinjal in the country, a Bihar-based group has despatched ‘vermicompost’ and ‘dried cow dung ash’ to the U.S. President Mr. Barack Obama urging him to make use of the traditional Indian farming methods in the White House.
Vermicompost, an excellent nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, along with ash of dried cow dung, known for its insect repellent properties, have also been sent to the pro-Bt brinjal Agriculture Minister Mr. Sharad Pawar to draw his attention to the indigenous farming techniques.
The group – GM Free Bihar Movement – today said here that its decision to send vermicompost and ash were prompted by the visit of U.S. official Ms Nina Federoff to India to coincide with the Indian Government’s much-awaited announcement on Bt brinjal. Ms Federoff, a molecular biologist and Science and Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton, is known to have lobbied hard in New Zealand for GM crops.
“This way American agri-companies are intensifying lobbying with the Indian government,” the Movement’s Convenor Mr. Pankaj Bhushan said, referring that “Ms Clinton had also made it a point to visit the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in July last year where she reiterated her country's commitment to bringing about policy changes in the Indian farm sector that U.S. agri-business would like to see.”
“We are surprised that Ms Clinton’s technology advisor is visiting India at this crucial juncture. We understand that Ms Federoff is a strong votary of genetically modified crops to the extent of being regarded as a spokesperson for the U.S. seed multinational Monsanto,” Mr. Bhushan said. “In fact, Ms Federoff had triumphantly pointed out to a group of U.S. agri-scientists last year that although Europe and Japan were cautious about GM foods, Africa and India were clamouring for them,” he said.
Mr. Bhushan urged Indian Environment Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh to thus seize the opportunity to tackle the problem of unsustainable and hazardous agri-technologies head-on and chart out a sustainable development path in Indian food and farming systems by rejecting Bt Brinjal’s entry into India.
Biotech expert Shree Ram Padmadeo said GM Free Bihar Movement wanted to communicate to the U.S. President and the Indian Agriculture Minister the power of: “Our Agriculture, Our Manure; Our Seed, Our Taste.” ‘GM Free Bihar Movement’ is a part of the National Coalition for GM Free India. It has been raising serious concerns about the ‘poisonous Bt brinjal’ from time to time. Its activists say it is their duty to constantly raise awareness on the issue both in and outside Bihar. As recently as on Jan.30, the group observed a fast at the historic Gandhi Maidan here to protest the ‘conspiracy by multinationals to enslave Indian farmers.’
Farmer leader Mr. Rajendra Rai and senior activist Bablu Prakash said that ever since Indian Government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) cleared Bt Brinjal for commercial release in Oct.2009, the farmer community is getting restless as it feels that the Indian government is succumbing to international pressure. “As such, when Mr. Jairam Ramesh ignored Bihar while holding national consultations on Bt brinjal, we rushed to the cities where he held consultations to protest.” He said Bihar contributes over 11% of the total production of Brinjal in India and hence the state had important stake in making the final decision.
“Our movement also held a funeral procession of Bt brinjal on the National Consumer Day,” said agriculture expert Mr. Hemant Kumar Shrivastava. “We are demanding from Bihar government that not only Bt brinjal but the entire GM crops should be banned in the state and a state-level regularity system should be started so that any person or company cannot come at once either for selling their seeds or field trials,” he added.
Further former chairman of Bihar State farmers commission, Dr. Ramadhar who served the food and agriculture organisation of the United Nation for fifteen years added that “I am totally against Bt Brinjal. It will ruin the farmers of the country and leave them totally at the mercy of Multinationals. No country has accepted this. Do the multinationals want to use India as a guinea-pig? What about our national sovereignty and self respect?
-- Pankaj Bhushan GM Free Bihar Movement 9470230999