International Conference on Two Decades of the GMO Free Movement

by thetanvi

International Conference on Two Decades of the GMO Free Movement

Posted on Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Celebrating Success, Securing the Future

Organized by Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) jointly with: International Commission for the Future of Food, ARSIA Region of Tuscany (Italy), Centre for Food Safety (USA), Save our Seeds (Germany), Diverse Women for Diversity, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society.

India International Centre: February 23, 2010

By Carrie Stiles

The International Conference on Two Decades of the GMO Free Movement was a timely forum to generate dialogue and awareness during a crucial moment for India’s scientific and agricultural community. The conference follows national consultations on the introduction of Bt Brinjal, India’s first Genetically Modified staple food crop. Civil society spoke out against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS) at the conference. Presenters illuminated a vivid depiction of the dynamic, twenty-year struggle to resist corporate monopolies on seed. Many influential scientists and farmers voiced strong protest to the powerful American Corporation Monsanto, and it’s Indian partner Mahyco. These concerned citizens point to disastrous consequences of GM food as exhibited by the United States experience and the Indian experience of illegally planted Bt Cotton. Conversely, Europe’s successful movement to ban GM serves as an important example to India.

Bt Brinjal and the forced patenting of seed is a threat to India’s indigenous knowledge, biodiversity, seed-sovereignty and democratic integrity. Over 2,500 varieties of brinjal are available because of local seed saving and selective breeding. An interdisciplinary framework must be applied to the impact assessment of GMOs. Yet, the Indian government has shown almost exclusive support for biotechnology. Fraudulent science allowed for the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to initially approve Bt Brinjal prior to the moratorium. India has the oldest Biosafety law in the world, predating commercialization. Dr. Shiva warned that the dismantling of India’s Environmental Protection Law and government deregulation, in the American tradition, has disastrous consequences as exhibited by the current ecological and economic crisis. Industry is attempting to replace and deny the law with the Biotechnology Authority Regulatory Law.

India is at a crossroads. The nation can either fall into the American crisis with the predicament of Monsanto’s GM takeover or defend its biological diversity and indigenous knowledge through an alliance with the Europeans. The crucial question before the nation is: who will control the seed: farmers or seed companies? Will the Indian government protect Foreign Direct Investment over its citizen’s interests? The crossroads must be carefully navigated according to the precautionary principle. Yet, the power of profit to corrupt the political arena is pervasive. The Prime Minister’s office has floated a new law with a clause that punishes unsanctioned criticism of GMOs with fines of up to a year in prison. In light of this punitive sanction on free speech a Monsanto dictatorship is not a distant dream, but pending reality for many concerned Indian citizens.