Coimbatore, 2nd April 2009: The movement against Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Tamil Nadu took a dramatic turn today when a large number of protestors, led by Vellaiyan, the leader of Tamil Nadu Traders Association were arrested by the police for staging an active protest against the field trial of a GM corn plant inside the premises of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).
The protestors, under the umbrella organization of the Safe Food Alliance had come together to demand immediate destruction of the field where trial of BT corn, a hazardous GM food crop developed by Monsanto within the university premise was being carried out in secrecy for the last 3 months.
Genetically modified (GM) foods have been proved to be risky and can cause serious health hazards like hyper allergies, retarded growth, inflammation and liver and kidney toxicity. Studies have even predicted that long term consumption of GM foods like Bt corn can lead to serious reproductive problems and eventually to infertility. GM crops also are unanimously opposed by all farmers union’s across India, as they can contaminate the agri-biodiversity developed over thousands of years, while increasing corporate control over seed, impairing soil fertility and end the rights of farmers over their seed.
Despite these issues surrounding GM crops that have been raised by activists, the TNAU has been conducting open air field trials for the multinational company Monsanto on the public land held by the university - free of cost.
"We are tired of the strategy of silent destruction that this university has adopted," said Mr. Vellaiyan, President of the Tamil Nadu Vanighar Sangangalin Peravai while being dragged into the police van. "The university is acting against the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu - both farmers and traders. It has sworn its loyalty to the MNC Monsanto by conducting this field trial, and has been defending its act by propagating lies and misleading the government and the people of this state," he added.
Earlier in March, the Safe Food Alliance had organised a rally against the continued allegiance of the University to the MNC Monsanto. On the same day, representatives form more than 11 Farmers organisaitons, Tamil Nadu Vanighar Sangangalin Peravai and Greenpeace had delivered a set of recommendations to the University- asking it to destroy the field trials immediately.
"When countries across the world like France, Italy, Austria, England, Poland and Romania have decided to keep a moratorium on GM crops, when states like Kerala can declare themselves GM free and chart a organic path to revive their farming sector, why can't Tamil Nadu? If we farmers don't need GM crops, why does the university continue signing agreements with foreign companies for collaboration?’ asked Aruchamy of the Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam..
Today's active protest carries a lot of significance to the fluid political situation in the State- as the 15th Lok Sabha Elections are fast approaching. Many parties, like the PMK- Pattali Makkal Katchi have taken a strong position against GM crops in the Manifesto. The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) had also been supporting the demand for gm free India and for a state ban in Tamil Nadu.
Mrs. Ponnuthai of the Womens Collective, who is part of the team, said, "We are here to protest against the introduction GM food in the country. As responsible citizens, we are here to assert that we do not need such technologies. As consumers, our right to safe food cannot be violated and we cannot be made into lab rats in this experiment."
The protests against such anti farmer alliances made by public sector universities has also flared up at Kolhapur in Maharashtra recently. There also farmers have united against the leadership of legendary farmers leader N D Patil and have demanded immediate halt and destruction of the Monsanto’s BT Corn field trial which is currently going on inside the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyalaya campus in Kolhapur.
Today's active protest at TNAU university also was also addressed by many others including K. Ramakrishnan, of the Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, Balusamy, Secretary, Thondamuthur region, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Selvam from the Erode district organic farmers collective and Jai Krishna from Greenpeace.
For further information, photos and video contact:
Mr. Gnanaguru – Affiliate Safe Food Alliance, Coimbatore +91 98426 44151
Ms. Stella paul: +919845068125, Greenpeace
Photographs and video footage are available on request
The SAFE FOOD ALLIANCE is a network of organisations and individuals who want to stop GM food from being approved as safe, from consumers and farmers losing a choice, from the nation losing its food security forever and for protecting the health and safety of citizens.