Will Tamil Nadu legislators fend off Bt Brinjal ?

Today, the lawmakers of Tamil Nadu got a ‘gift’ that threatens to become a rarity — brinjal untainted by the Bt genes bombarded into them by Monsanto-Mahyco.

Activists demanding a ban on the genetically modified variety of vegetable -which may turn up unannounced at your local green grocer as well as the local More, Daily, Reliance Fresh and other outlets – presented the non-GM variety to the MLAs and pressed for a ban.

Here is the press release issued by Greenpeace:

Activists Gift ‘last GM free Brinjals’ to 150 Tamilnadu MLAs Demand GM food be banned in Tamil nadu until proven safe

Chennai, 28th January, 2009: Fifteen activists from the Safe Food Alliance confronted 150 MLAs who were on their way to the Assembly today, and demanded that they address the issue of Genetically Modified food crops in the state. They requested the MLAs to raise the question of the controversial GM corn and Bt Brinjal being field tested in the Tamilnadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, in the Assembly.

Armed with brinjal bouquets and gift notes, the 15 activists met the 150 MLAs while they were leaving for the Assembly, at the MLA hostel in the government estate campus and gifted them symbolically the last set of GM free Brinjal available. The protest comes in the context of the Central Government preparing to commercialise Bt.Brinjal, the first GM food crop in the country, within 2 months. “TNAU, Coimbatore has been aggressively researching GM food crops. Many eminent scientists like Dr. Bhargava, special invitee of the Supreme Court in the genetic engineering approval committee and Dr. Gilles Eric Seralini, from University of Caen, France have said that Bt Brinjal may present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden” stated Jai Krishna, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace.

Vettavalam Manikandan of the Tamil Nadu farmers association, who was part of the campaign said that States like Kerala have already taken a stand to ban GM crops and states like Uttarkhand, Nagaland have declared themselves organic.

“Tamil Nadu lags behind in protecting its consumers and farmers. Considering the risks involved in this outdated technology, TN should immediately ban trials of GM crops” he added. The TamilNadu Agricultural University is presently conducting trials of Bt Maize belonging to Monsanto in its campus, in spite of a recent Austrian Government Research study proving that this particular variety of maize could cause reproductive disorders.

The University’s interest towards the farmers welfare has been questioned many times in the last two years with farmers’ organizations even branding the University as “Owned by Monsanto”. “With the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University choosing a contractual job of conducting field trials for the Agri Biotech giant, Monsanto, over research for farmers benefit, they are squandering public resources and taxpayers money towards the profit of foreign companies. We have no option other than to ask our elected representatives to regulate the University and stop all field trials” said Jai Krishna.

The activists from the Safe Food alliance demanded that the MLAs ensure that:

1. All GM crop approvals and field trials be stopped immediately.

2. Genetically engineered foods be subject to long term and intergenerational tests before an open air field trial is permitted in Tamil Nadu.

3. State agricultural universities (SAU) disengage any partnership research on GM crops with any private companies. 4. Medicinal Herbs, staple crops like rice and other culturally significant crops should be declared as NOT to be genetically engineered.

Add your own voice to this protest and write to your local newspaper demanding a ban. Don’t wait for your food supply to be taken over by profiteering GM companies.

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