The protests against Bt brinjal have gone beyond public hearings.
On Saturday, several people across India and abroad will observe a day-long fast or light a candle to oppose the commercial cultivation of India’s first genetically modified food crop. The day is being observed as the National Day of Fast.
“GM foods like Bt brinjal pose a huge threat to health, agriculture and environment, and they need to be strongly opposed in order to preserve farmers’ self-reliance and control over seeds and agriculture, and protect the consumers’ access to safe healthy food,” said Kiran Vissa of the Association for India’s Development, a volunteer movement that is organising the protest.
Coinciding with Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal in will host protestors at its Tardeo office from 10am to 6pm. More than 500 people have joined an online petition, which will be submitted to the Environment Ministry.
“Don’t force us to eat poison. On completing 63 years of independence in free India, why are we increasing dependency on some foreign MNC for crops which are indigenous to India,” said Animish Mandrekar, Mumbai resident.
Shashidhar M from Maryland, USA said, “Introduction of Bt Brinjal will benefit the companies involved in the genetic modifications business. It will not resolve the issue of hunger. Rather it will burden the government of India with a mounting health bill due to illness amongst the population.”
In October 2008, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee gave the nod for the commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal. Following this, there were widespread protests from civil society — farmers, scientists and activists voiced their opposition, citing lack of independent tests and long-term animal trials.
Even seven state governments have expressed their views against Bt brinjal. Over the last month, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been conducting nationwide consultation meetings with various stakeholders.
A final decision will be taken after February 15.