Eggplant, Aubergine, Melanzane

In India, it’s called Brinjal and thousands are taking to the streets to defend it. The Indian media has generally good coverage, here, here, and here. At issue is whether a genetically modified version ought to be allowed. Government scientists have declared it safe and productive, but many have their doubts, especially when 1500 native varieties are at risk from contamination.  Unlike Europe, where consumers led the charge against GM crops, India’s farmers are out front and centre. A press release from one of the many Indian farmers’ movements below the fold.

SOUTH INDIAN COORDINATION COMMITTEE OF FARMERS’ MOVEMENTS (SICCFM)

636, Ideal Home Layout, Rajarajeswari Nagar,

Bangalore-560098.

Email: siccfm@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE

“BT BRINJAL IS ONLY AN EXCUSE FOR TAKING OVER INDIAN AGRICULTURE – REJECT GM SEEDS”

Coimbatore, January 19th 2010: Pointing out that multinational companies are using Indian agriculture universities as their acceptable front and that these institutions run by Indian taxpayers’ funds should reject all such attempts by MNCs, leaders of various farmers’ organizations of South India called for a complete rejection of Bt Brinjal and other GM seeds. They said that any seeds that enslave Indian farmers and poison our food and soils are not acceptable, whether they come from agriculture universities or from multinational corporations. Farmers’ leaders from various organizations were taking part in a Conference on Bt Brinjal and Seed Sovereignty organized by the South Indian Coordination Committee of Indian Farmers’ Movements. The Conference unanimously passed a resolution demanding that Tamil Nadu government also reject Bt Brinjal seeds just as the other three neighboring states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have done.

Mr K Sellamuthu, President of Uzhavar Uzhaipalar Katchi urged the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to take a stand against Bt Brinjal and such other seeds and expressed his hope that Chief Minister will continue to show long term vision in sustaining farmers’ livelihoods in the state. He also called upon the government to ignore the faulty advice of some scientists in the state.

“Recently, the Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister’s assurances to the Assembly on the issue of Bt Brinjal were incorrect and misleading. He had reportedly claimed that tests have been performed by the University on Bt Brinjal – this is not true since the University has been allowed to dispense away with even Large Scale Trials on the agronomic front. On the health and environmental safety front, scores of questions still remain on the studies done by and data produced by the crop developer, which is the Indian partner of Amercian company Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company. When other states are using their scientific capabilities to point this out to the Central government, why is Tamil Nadu government so complacent in resting its trust on the regulators who have been thoroughly discredited? If a Congress-led state like Andhra Pradesh can also take a stand against Bt Brinjal, why can’t Tamil Nadu take a stand in favour of people and not corporations?”, asked Dr Sivasamy, senior farmers’ leader.

Adding that Bt Brinjal’s assessment has not touched upon some fundamental questions to this day, Kodihalli Chandrasekhar of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) said, “While it is true that brinjal crop does take up higher number of pesticide sprays in certain plots of intensive cultivation, the pesticide consumption figures being projected to rationalize the introduction of Bt Brinjal are not scientific at all. In Karnataka, the horticulture department data shows that brinjal is ranked fourteenth amongst horticulture crops in terms of its pesticides consumption and is not the main guzzler of toxic chemicals in fact. Further, there are many practices which need to be taken to all brinjal farmers by the government which are eco-friendly, sustainable and affordable for successful pest management. There is no point in replacing one toxic, unsustainable technology with another, that too irreversible technology. That shows the lack of foresightedness of our rulers. I urge all farmers to understand the conspiracy of enslavement that is behind Bt Brinjal and reject these seeds. I urge them to demand from the government the promotion of sustainable solutions in farming”.

“It is a shame that the Indian regulators, rather than being proud of our invaluable diversity in this crop and rather than putting out recommendations to conserve such unique diversity are actually negating the fact that Brinjal originated in this country. Rewriting a scientific fact on its contamination possibilities or its origins or its ill effects on our health would not fool alert Indian farmers and consumers. The government should also realize this or face the wrath of awakened citizens if it does the mistake of approving Bt Brinjal in India”, warned Mr P Raveendranath, President of Kerala State Coconut Farmers’ Association and Fr George Pottakkal of INFAM.

Pointing out that farmers’ organizations have not asked for this and rejecting the need for this toxic product to be more or less directly consumed by all Indians, Mr N S Palanisamy, former legislator and President of Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam said, “No Bt Brinjal has ever been introduced anywhere in the world. In fact, American agencies invested their resources to develop Bt Brinjal in India as well as to re-write our regulatory guidelines. When a majority of the countries around the world are rejecting this technology at this point of time, it is unacceptable that the Indian government decided to go with America on this and is not acting in the best interests of farmers and consumers here”.

“We also demand that Mahyco and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, along with the Tamil Nadu government immediately let the world know where their original seed material had come from, for creating the Bt Brinjal varieties. Where are the initial varieties from and where is the consent from the farming communities that evolved the original varieties used for the university varieties? Who now owns the Bt Brinjal varieties given that Mahyco has patented the genetic ‘event’ in Bt Brinjal? We will not allow this kind of appropriation of seed material that belongs of farmers and this blatant violation of our rights by MNCs, through agriculture universities. We had already seen that in the case of Bt Cotton, non-GM cotton seed has been wiped out of the market and not many cotton seeds exist in this country today that cannot be claimed as the proprietary material of Monsanto, given that their ‘events’ have been inserted into our lines and that most Indian companies are sub-licensed to this corporation. This kind of appropriation will not be tolerated by us”, said Mr Sadagopan, President of Uzhavar Periyakkam.

The farmers’ organizations put out a call to everyone interested in protecting India’s seed and food sovereignty to join the public consultation on January 25th in Bangalore and to communicate our message of rejection of GM seeds in India to the Minister for Environment & Forests.

The following farmers leader’s participated in the consultation.

For more information, contact:

1. S Kannaiyan of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements, at sukannaiyan69@gmail.com or (0) 9444989543