Rejecting Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar’s stance on genetically modified (GM) crops being the answer to India’s food security, 17 Greenpeace activists unfurled a massive banner with the message, ‘Say no to GM, yes to food Security’ at the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) godown in Delhi on Feb 20. The banner carried a picture of Pawar and was installed high on the FCI godown by trained climbers.
Just as the activists unfolded the banner, police teams arrived and stopped the activity. Subsequently, the protesters, who were demonstrating peacefully, were taken to Mayapuri police station and 12 of them were detained for 12 hours. The activists were charged under the IPC for trespass and later released on bail. Police seized the activists’ equipment and personal belongings. Among the Greenpeace activists were Senthil Kumar and Prabhakar Behera, who scaled the wall of the FCI and carried out their protest.
Commenting on the detention, social activist Aruna Roy said, “The Greenpeace activists peacefully protesting against the position taken by Sharad Pawar have been illegally detained. This detention is one more in a series of actions taken by the State to suppress dissent. They were in fact protesting against the Minister's attempt to trivialise the issue of food security by asserting that the controversial GM technology would in fact offer security of food production. The Minister's support for GM food crops is highly controversial and there is an ongoing international debate on this issue. We condemn the detention and demand immediate release of the peaceful protestors.”
Earlier, in the Monsoon Session of 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture tabled their report on GM crops. One of the clear recommendations of the report was for the government to come up with a fresh roadmap to food security that does not adopt risky technologies like GM but addresses the shortcomings of storage, distribution and mismanagement of stocks. The premise that GM food crops are a panacea for food security is an argument made to serve the interests of the biotech sector.
Neha Saigal, Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “So far there has been no single GM crop developed for increasing yields. GM crops have failed to show any increase in yield in nearly two decades of their existence. Instead of forcing risky GM food down our throats, Pawar needs to address the fact that millions of tonnes of grains in storage facilities across India consistently fail to reach the people. And as the environment minister, Natarajan must take an unequivocal stand on GM crops.”
Echoing the voice of the Parliamentary Committee, more than 150 scientists across the country wrote to Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan, expressing their displeasure at the Indian government for promoting GM crops as a way forward for food security.
Kavita Srivastava, Convenor of the Right to Food campaign, said, “The issue of food security is broader than production. The problem lies in the lack of a political will for a universal distribution system. The UPA Government must not be distracted by GM crops as a solution to food security, but focus on an inclusive food security bill.”
Greenpeace has urged Natarajan, who is the decision-maker on the environmental release of genetically modified organisms, to intervene so that the Ministry of Agriculture does not “misdirect the debate on food security.”- Greenpeace India