Sunday, December 13, 2009

Feedback and Publicity following the public debates and lectures on GM foods in Bangalore - Dec 2009

Greetings from My Right to Safe Food"

Following the series of public debates and lectures on Food security & GM Foods which commenced from 4th Dec in Bangalore onwards, please read on....

4th Dec & 5th December 2009. -‘Be the Change’ Conference on Food, Health and Climate Change, the conference focused on the importance of becoming aware of our right to good safe food, steered by Seetha Ananthasivan, Director, Bhoomi Network. The conference was splendid. Organised with such finesse, fine attention to detail, be it in content and design it brought together powerful speakers with heads of educational institutes, teachers, educators, students, NGO's and lot others touching a deep inner chord of wanting to make that little difference and be the change. The support extended by Seetha and her team in a signature appeal to our Prime Minister " My Right to Safe Food - Our Right to Feed our children GM-Free Safe Food" is truly noteworthy.

4th Dec - “GM Crops in India-Hero or Villain? You Decide,’’ organised by the Bangalore International Centre, news related to this event was sent earlier.

5th Dec - Lumiere, Nature's partner is the first organic multi-cuisine restaurant launched in Marathalli, Bangalore, Inaugurated by Mr Devinder Sharma. Lumiere promotes safe holistic foods and takes great pride in growing organic vegetables and cereals. Mr Manjunath P R, and Mr Ashok masterminds behind this exquisite organic restaurant have set a new trend and precedent for others to follow in the standards of fine dining. Behind the scenes, i had the good fortune to witness the concerted tireless efforts taken by Mr Manjunath to ensure all ingredients that were not grown in his farms were outsourced from safe food growers, marginal farmers and like by stringently following the fair trade practices. The ambiance and decor in Lumiere reflected the painstaking efforts of tribal arts holistically portrayed by Mrs Nalini, an art activist whose humble demeanor was most touching. The well equipped kitchen dishing out aromas of delicate flavoured food, freshly baked breads and cakes was such a rare treat. My joy has no bounds. For once, i can visit a restaurant without having to worry where my oil, veggies, dairy and poultry produce and more comes from! Hope Lumiere ignites a chain of safe food cuisines throughout India.

7th Dec - The next public debate was "Genetically Modified (GM) Food Crop: How does this matter to a common man? was held at the Institute for Agricultural Technologies (IAT) at Bangalore on Dec 7, Organised by Civic, a Bangalore-based NGO. This charged interactive debate exceeded time frames due to interest ignited by the panel of speakers to consumers was made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of Kathayani Chamaraj, Harish Poovaiah and Asha Kilaru of CIVIC.

7th Dec - A stimulating lecture by Devinder Sharma on “FOOD SECURITY AND GENETIC ENGINEERING IN AGRICULTURE” addressing IPR students was kindly organised by Dr Ramakrishna of the National Law School. Followed by the documentary film "Poison on the Platter". The impact of this brought together a group of concerned students... coming forward to carry the message of safe foods.

8th Dec - Thanks to Sr Albina, a dynamic and progressive principal of Mount Carmel College, my alma mator who gave us the privilege of addressing over 2000 students and faculty in a packed auditorium. “FATE OF FOOD” – “DO WE NEED GM FOODS?”followed by the film Poison on the Platter. Awakening these students on GM issues brought together yet another charged youth group, wishing to take the stride to stand up for their rights on safe foods. Faculty member Vimala, Head of Zoology extended warm support. Young Rithika who came charging out of the auditorium seeing our departure with a list of 28 core group students to strengthen the movement was most heartening.

These intense debates to give our Bangalore consumers informed choices and interviews carried with such ease by Devinder Sharma packed in so short a time frame was achieved thanks to allocation of his time, out of his hectic schedule.

All this and more, has given us further impetus to continue in our endeavor and not allow GM foods into our food chain. Young Pavithra Pasan, a final year biotech student volunteering at Ishana farms is in the process of finalising action plans drawing together all concerned groups from each of the lectures and debates attended.

Given the limited time frames, we will strive hard for our Bangalore voices to be heard by our Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi and Jairam Ramesh.

In solidarity

Sangita Sharma

Please find below the following news items covering by the respective media.

‘Genetically modified food crops will not improve productivity’
Staff Reporter

— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
(From left) Narayan Reddy, organic farmer; Devinder Sharma, chairman of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security; T.M. Manjunath, former director of Monsanto Research; and Ramanjini Gowda, Head of the Department of Biotechnology, UAS, Bangalore, at a public discussion in Bangalore on Monday.

BANGALORE: Expressing reservations on allowing commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal in the country, panellists at a public discussion stated that genetically modified (GM) crops would not improve productivity as claimed by some. They also urged the public to raise their voice against GM food crops, as it was in their best interests.

At a public discussion on “Genetically modified food: how does this matter to a common man,” organised here by CIVIC, chairman of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security Devinder Sharma said that introduction of GM crops might reduce crop loss to a certain extent, but would not increase productivity.

Stating that the global food production was sufficient, Dr. Sharma said that it was sufficient to feed 11 billion people, whereas six billion people inhabit the earth. “The argument in favour of introduction of GM food crops should not revolve around linking increased productivity and hunger,” he said. While there had been no human clinical trial conducted with respect to GM foods, no medical essay was available to treat any possible impact on genes, Dr. Sharma added.

He also said that agricultural scientists in India had been catering to the corporates than the public.

Why brinjal?

“If food security was an issue behind introduction of GM food crops, then why was brinjal chosen though it is not a staple diet? Why not pulses or cereals?” Narayan Reddy, a national award winning organic farmer questioned. He pointed out that a family used just about a kg of brinjal a week.

Bt brinjal may be resistant to fruit and borer disease, but not to many others. The introduction of GM food crops may create a monopoly situation, and farmers would not be able to purchase seeds, Dr. Reddy said.

“The Government should look into the foodgrains that were being lost in the FCI godowns if it wants to address the issue of hunger.” The problem in India was not about scarcity, but about wastage, he added.

However, justifying the introduction of GM food crops, the former director of Monsanto Research T.M. Manjunath said that research had shown that GM food crops had shown reduction in losses due to pests. Stating that Bt. cotton had become popular among the farmers, he said that from being a cotton importer India was now exporting it.


‘Propagating GM crops a corporate ploy’

Express News ServiceFirst Published : 08 Dec 2009 05:02:00 AM IST

‘‘Scientists have become pawns at the hands of the corporates '' said noted agricultural scientist and food, trade policy expert Devinder Sharma.

While speaking at a public discussion on `` Genetically Modified (GM) Food Crop: How does this matter to a common man? organised by NGO CIVIC at Institution of Agricultural Technologists (IAT) on Monday, Devinder Sharma said, agricultural scientists in the country need to take responsibility for the farmer suicides as it is because of their faulty science that they have to commit suicide, he said.Devinder Said, contrary to what the corporates and scientists are telling us, there is no shortage of food in the country.On the other hand, India has produced around 65 million tonnes of surplus food in the year 2003.He said, 40 years back we were deceived into believing that green revolution will solve the country's farmers' problems and will make the Indian farmer rich.But he said, according to the National Survey Sample of 2004, the average monthly income of farmer's is a meagre Rs 2,115.


Their role in promotion of GM crops flayed
‘Scientists have become pawns of corporates’
Bangalore, Dec 7, DH News Service:

Agriculture scientists came in sharp criticism for their role in promoting genetically modified crops, at a public debate here on Thursday.

The debate with the theme “What Genetically Modified (GM) food crops mean to the common man” organised by CIVIC, a not-for profit organisation saw speakers charging agriculture scientists becoming pawns of corporates selling BT products.

The debate organised by the CIVIC, a not-for-profit organisation, had academicians and farmers discuss the raging issue of BT products, all set to flood the Indian markets.

Narayan Swamy, a farmer who used to produce BT cotton, said agriculturists like himself were at the mercy of corporates who could raise the prices of seeds as they wished. Such arbitrariness was now forcing agriculturists back to organic farming, he said.

Another speaker, Dr Devinder Sharma said: “For 40 years since the Green Revolution, agriculture scientists have been misleading the general public on the merits of GM crops. Their claims of helping the farmers have fallen short of assuring anybody of the validity of these products.” Sharma shared the figures of average income of a Indian farmer coming to only Rs 2,115 as per the NSS data of 2002-03.

He held farm scientists responsible for the current failure of cotton crops in the country. “The figures speak for themselves. Cotton production in the past four years is at its lowest this year,” he said.

He argued the only solution provided by the scientists to the problems of Green Revolution was another “Green Revolution” for enhancing yields.

Countering Sharma, Dr T M Manjunath, who was earlier associated with GM seeds producer Monsanto, said people who opposed the GM crops had not understood the meaning of BT and biotechnological advances in science. “As per the figures provided by the Government of India, cotton production has tripled since 1950-51. It is only due to BT cotton that it has been possible for India to become an exporter in the product from being an importer prior to the Green Revolution,” he said.

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