Sunday, July 5, 2009

We all need to help our friends across the world

India

Monsanto is trying to introduce genetically modified eggplant seed into India. Here is a letter I received recently. Please read it and do what you can. This is NOT someone else's problem, it is the responsibility of every human on this planet, including you and me.

Dear friends and colleagues,

This letter is to request you to sign a petition to the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, seeking to ban the entry of GM foods and seeds into the country.

The Anti-GM Food campaign (www.indiagminfo.org) has been active  for a couple of years, and has thousands of farmers and urban consumers backing it in India. The protest recently got a reprieve when the newly appointed Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, made a statement saying he would not allow the entry of GM foods into India. We now need international support to make sure that there is enough pressure on the goverment to take sane decisions regarding the future of our nation.

Many of you may be aware that Monsanto is ready for the release and commercial sale of  Bt Brinjal (eggplant) seeds in India. Eggplant is an an ironic choice of vegetable, since it is a well known fact that India has hundreds of local, native eggplant varieties, that continue to be cultivated even today, in fields and home gardens.

Earlier, the Indian government allowed  large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal without biosafety protocol being cleared. Some of you may also have seen Monsanto's  advertisements in leading newspapers and magazines in the US, about biotechnology saving the world, using Climate Change as a platform for their argument.

All you need to do is go to  www.iamnolabrat.com  and sign the petition. It will go directly to the Prime Minister's office (PMO). Every voice counts. This is a global concern we are talking about here, not just India.

I would like to mention here that India and the US  Bush administration had signed an agreement - the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA)  with a great emphasis on and large plans for transgenics,  using state of the art infrastructure in India as tools for  multi-national seed companies. It is interesting to note that Monsanto is one of the members of the KIA board, along with WalMart!

The Indian government  had also come up with a Biotechnology  Development Strategy (a policy framework) for the country with huge financial outlays for modern biotechnology, despite great opposition from hundreds of civil society groups at each stage  - right from the draft to the regional consultations.

I am sending this mail out to all of you whom I have met, or been in touch with on email or phone during my time in the US over the last four months. I have mentioned the Bt Brinjal campaign to many of you, and I feel confident that you will respond to this alert. Please also take a few minutes to send it out to your network so this gets wider publicity.

The campaign may also request you for future help, in case things reach a stage where phone-ins on designated dates are needed. We would deeply appreciate it if those of you who can do so, respond to this request as well. What seemed like a lost case then, has reached this stage with public pressure and participation, and with our collective effort, we may be able to get the government to take an appropriate decision. 

Many, many thanks in advance and all good luck with your own work.

Warm regards,

Sunita Rao

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Sunita Rao
Adjunct  Fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India (www.atree.org)
Member, Kalpavriksh, Pune, India (www.kalpavriksh.org)
Founder Trustee, VANASTREE, Sirsi, India (www.vanastree.org)

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Sunito Rao is a board member of Kitchen Gardeners International.   I thank Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers for bringing this to my attention.

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