The Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF) joined the coalition for a "GM Free India" to say that, "we are not labrats" and joined others in exposing the University at Coimbatore for experimenting on BT corn. The coalition enjoined many political parties in saying "No to GM" during the elections. With all this, the Environment Minister said that there is a "need to rethink on why we need GM food."
The coalition found out that companies are progressing with the GM rice crop. Bayer and Mahyco are already on field trials to test the more profitable GM rice. Greenpeace has sent alerts all over the nation that, Indian rice is in danger.
Greenpeace activists raided a GM rice field trial of Bayer Crop Science in a company-owned research farm in the village of Chinnakanjarla, about 45 kilometers from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. 10 activists planted 5 scare crows and painted the words "Bio Hazard" and held the message "Bayer, Hands off our Rice". They painted the universal warning symbol for Bio hazard on the field as well.
The 1440 sq meter Chinnakanjarla field is growing herbicide tolerant rice, which requires farmers to buy Bayer's herbicide Glufosinate, a chemical that has been banned and is to be phased out in Europe due to its hazardous nature. Glufosinate (trade name "Basta" in India and "Liberty" in the EU and USA) is classified in the EU as toxic for reproduction, category 2 (R2) and it is teratogenic, meaning it can also cause birth defects.
In 2004, Bayer had written to Greenpeace stating that they had discontinued GM research in India. However, they are not keeping their words. Fatima Burnad of TNWF said, "We will work towards a GM-free India. We will continue to protest until Bayer leaves India and for the banning of GM technology."
The union minister for environment, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, has gone on record that his ministry would not encourage GM food crops; it is now his responsibility to curb the herbicide and keep our fields safe.
In 2007, India declared a ban on GM rice field trials in 3 states of the Basmati-rice export zone. This came after EU and other countries rejected imports of rice contaminated with unauthorized GM strains of Bayer.
India has the most to lose when untested GM rice such as the one experimented by Bayer will lead to serious contamination of other non-GM rice. To protect the Indian farmer, the ministry must protect rice fields from such GM trials and save the robust export market.
Volunteers installed a warning sign declaring the area contaminated and a bio hazard zone and gave away information brochures to the farmers on the dangerous experiments the company is conducting in the midst of their farm lands.
Currently, 41 food crops are being genetically modified in India, 11 of which have reached open air trial phase. Rice is the most researched crop and has the greatest number (25) of genetically modified versions. (Source: Ministry of Science & Technology)
India is a centre of origin of rice and has more than 100 thousand varieties of rice of which 86,330 accessions have already been officially recorded. (Source: proceedings of the international rice commission meeting, Bangkok, 2002, http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4751e/y4751e0b.htm)
India is the 2nd largest producer of rice and 2nd largest exporter of rice in the world.
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Tamil Nadu Women's Forum
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Tamil Nadu, India