Rice, maize, brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage, okra – plans are on to create genetically engineered variety of every vegetable, fruit and herb that you like. Yes, unknown to us, we could turn into lab rats, our plates filled with food that has been artificially created.
16 Oct 2008, Bangalore: “I like my vangi bhaath to be what it has been all this time. It is horrifying to think that we are now being subjected to an experiment that is irreversibly changing our food. It is scary to even think that one day all I can have is Genetically Modified food, which I don’t want to’, said Ramya, renowned Sandalwood actress, at the launch of I Am No Lab Rat campaign, an initiative against the Genetically Modified food proliferation.
The campaign, significantly launched on the World Food Day, also had celebrity film director Kavitha Lankesh who came out strongly against GM food.
“Genetically Modified food is the result of genetic exchanges between plants and animals. Just the thought of eating something which is not natural sounds repulsive and unacceptable. I can not think of losing my choice and being forced to buy such food”, commented Kavitha.
The primary objective of I Am No Lab Rat campaign is to mobilize public opinion on the alarmingly growing and uncontrolled GM food, and urge the Union Health Minister, Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss to ban such unsafe food.
Talking to reporters at the venue, Divya Raghunandan, Campaigns Director, Greenpeace, provided a clear insight into the present GM scenario. “In the past 3 years, GE research in India has increased by almost 250%. After brinjal, which is in the last stage of approvals without its safety independently verified, there are 25 kinds of GM rice varieties and 23 kinds of GM tomato and also includes groundnut, potato, cabbage, cauliflower and ladies’ finger, which will get approved if we don’t raise our voice and stop it now”, she said.
Greenpeace’s recently released Genetic Gamble report states that there are over 169 unknown GMOs being tested in our food crops. These include staples such as rice, maize and traditional favourites such as okra (ladies’ fingers). “Even trees and traditional Ayurvedic medicinal herbs have not been spared and are being subject to Genetic Engineering” said Surya, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace.
Krishna Prasad of Sahaja Samrudha – an NGO that works in Organic Agriculture, said, “Karnataka is the most preferred destination for GM crop companies and is the largest experimental hub for GM food. This is a shame on our Kannadiga agricultural heritage and also a grave threat to our health and food safety”.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), which is the regulatory authority for GM food has permitted the field trials across the country. One of the most glaring regulatory gaps is the system in which bio-safety of GM crops is given the least importance. The fact is that even after two years of field trials, there is no independently analyzed data on the bio-safety of any of the 169 GM food crops.
“The GEAC is completely dependent on the data provided by the GM companies themselves. The Food Safety ad Standards Authority has so far not done anything to allay public fears on safety of GM food”, added Krishna Prasad.
The launch of the I Am No Lab Rat campaign follows the apparent green signal from the GEAC about safety of Bt Brinjal, though there have been no long term studies done to indicate the safety of the first GM food crop of India. “At the international level, GM food has been either banned or strict restrictions implemented in the European Union, Japan, South Korea and many countries in Africa. Yet India continues to live in the fantasy that GM is the panacea for many of our food and agriculture problems” opined Surya.
The launch is part of a larger national campaign to reach out to Indian citizens to have their say food safety debate. As a part of the campaign, citizens across the country have been writing to the Union Health Minister Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss to step in and stop unsafe GM food immediately.
“What we need is nutritive and safe food. And of course we need to know what is being forced down our throats, so that we can make an informed decision” added Ramya, as she signed the petition to the Union Health Minister.
“You and I have been turned into lab rats for Genetic Engineering and the Health Minister has been a mute spectator as the Right to Health of every citizen slips from the purview of the health ministry and moves into the hands of trans-national seed corporations” added Lankesh.
Upholding the Indian citizen’s Right to choose, the campaign being spearheaded in Karnataka by Samvada, Greenpeace and Sahaja Samrudha demanded:
- No open air release of GMOs unless there are independent long term health and environmental impact studies conducted and published for an independent public scrutiny
- Health Ministry and the newly constituted FSSA (Food Safety and Standards Authority) should take up the responsibility for bio-safety approvals of GM crops