Thousands of farmers and activists from across 20 states took to a demonstration in India calling for the eviction of Monsanto from India. “Monsanto, Quit India” and a call to reject the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill were the demands raised at the demonstration.
The protest actions has originated as a result of Monsanto abandoning modified (GM) crops in Europe last month in the face of strong opposition to the technology that was harming its commercial interests.
The Coalition for GM-free India was instrumental in organizing the protest and a delegation of farmers and activists, presented a symbolic national flag made of non-GM cotton for Dr. Singh to unfurl at the Red Fort on Independence Day.
“Cotton and the cloth made from indigenous cotton are a symbol of our freedom struggle,” said Kavita Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. “Today, 93 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is controlled by Monsanto. It is now in the hands of the Prime Minister to protect our seed sovereignty as well as our food, farms and freedom.”
Members of Parliament joined the sit-in to express their solidarity with the coalition of about 250 civil society and farmers groups. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi and Dharmendar Pradhan (members of the Agriculture Standing Committee); DMK MPs, including T.K.S. Elangovan, T.M. Selvaganapathi, K.P. Ramalingam, A.K.S. Vijayan and S. Thangavelu; and MDMK’s A. Ganesamurthi expressed their support and assured farmers that they would take up the issue in Parliament.
Chairman of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said the panel had recommended that the BRAI Bill that provided for single-window clearance to GM technology should not be tabled in Parliament. The panel had opposed field trials of GM crops until a strong, revamped, multidisciplinary regulatory system was in place. M.B. Rajesh of the CPI(M) said the party backed the protestors’ demands
The Indian Supreme Court-appointed Technical Experts Committee on GMOs recently recommended that there should not be any field trials of GM crops until gaps in the regulatory system are addressed and pointed out the need for early risk assessment and chronic and trans-generational toxicity testing of GM products on humans, livestock, environment and biodiversity.
The Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan, too, has expressed concern at field-testing of GM crops and has put on hold approvals given by the regulatory authority under her Ministry in view of a public interest litigation petition in the Supreme Court.