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7-Misc.: GE-news on Earth Day - INDIA

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TITLE:  World Earth Day Celebrated for Protecting Biodiversity
        Rights and Food Rights
SOURCE: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
DATE:   April 22, 1999

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World Earth Day Celebrated for Protecting Biodiversity Rights and Food Rights 

Earth Day is an event that has come to be celebrated since 1970 ­ it is essentially a celebration of Earth itself. Originally March 21 was observed as Earth Day, the date marking the advent of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; however today April 22 is observed worldwide as the Earth Day. Though April 22 does not have any particular ecological significance in the West, it does so in the Indian sub-continent; particularly coinciding with this date is the farming community¹s preparations for the next crop. It is thus a time also for celebrating the previous crop harvest and thus acknowledging the bounty of the natural forces. 

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology along with various groups celebrated Earth Day at Jantar Mantar Chowk.  Afsar Jafri, Research Associate, addressed the gathering on the introduction of genetically engineered crops in the farming systems across the country.  He said that through the patent bill the government is surrendering our bio-diversity to TNC¹s. Speaking on the occasion Smt Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women, emphasised about individuals need for food rights and bio-diversity rights in the present scenario of globalisation and privatisation.  Ashok Emani, Research Officer, Research Foundation for Science, technology and Ecology informed that the significance of Earth Day become more important in the wake of the introduction of G.E. crops across the country as these specialised crops demand certain chemicals. And these chemicals increasing the yield of those specialised modified crops, actually are totally destroyi!
ng the bio-diversity surrounding the agricultural fields. Mrs Geeta Mukerjee, Member of Parliament aslo addressed the gathering at Jantar Mantar. She assured to the audience to raise the issue of importation of soyabean oil from USA and Argentina, which might be adulterated, with genetically engineered soyabean oil. She also said that despite the best efforts by her and fellow members from opposition, the government finally passed the Patent Amendment Act 1999, which, the form would have a very severe consequences For the bio-diversity health and agriculture of the country is concerned.

An idea central to the Earth Day is that each individual in his or her own way-a trustee of the Earth. The call for Earth day worldwide is a call for generating consciousness away from "Killing the Earth² to "Caring for the Earth². To generate awareness across the country Bija Satyagraha - a people¹s non-cooperation movement for their food rights and bio-diversity rights was launched on March 5, 1999 similar to the call ŒSalt Satyagraha¹ given by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, against the unjust and draconian Salt laws of the British.

Ashok Emani said that the present Bija Satyagraha chooses Earth Day to warn against potential "Earth-Killers² in the form of technologies that are destroying our ecosystems, food security and people¹s health. These killer technologies come in the guise of genetically engineered seeds.

Genetically engineered (G.E.) seeds are created through techniques of manipulating genes from different and often unrelated organisms.  The spread of such crops threatens our bio-diversity by simplifying cropping systems and promoting genetic erosion.  The potential transfer of genes from pesticide resistant crops to wild relatives may create new super weeds and super pests.   Consumption of these G.E. crops makes human beings more prone to infection through its antibiotic resistance genes leading to super bacteria and super viruses.  G.E. foods have been proven to cause retarded growth and immune deficiency in mammals.

Farmers¹ access to and control over the resources required to produce food are being threatened by two strong policies of the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O) - the Agreement on Agriculture and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIP¹s).  These two policies will encourage the entry of multinational seed companies controlling all the operations from seed multiplication to seed saving and appropriating farmers¹ rights over their seeds and the bio-diversity.

Indian agriculture is heading for a crisis of food production, food security and rising prices.  Government policies have deliberately encouraged production of commercial cash crops through increases in subsidies and loans.  Prices of staples have become higher in India than comparative prices on the international market.  Meanwhile the production of coarse cereals and pulses, the poor man¹s diet, is declining.  

Transnational corporations are pressurising the government to facilitate their entry into the Indian seed industry, particularly to push G.E. seeds on Indian farmers. 

Ms Gitanjali Bedi, Coordinator, Diverse Women for Diversity, informed that the government has recently approved the license free importation of 1 million tonnes of soyabean for our edible oil industry.  Reports confirm that the soyabean is being imported from US, where currently no legislation exists to segregate and label G.E. crops from other crops. While G.E. soya is being strongly rejected across Europe on grounds of its potential health hazards, US TNCs are forcing India to import such crops for its own domestic consumption.

The Bija Satyagraha campaign to protect India¹s biodiversity, to ensure food security and stop genetic engineering in food crops coincides with a world wide campaign called Global Days of Action happening simultaneously in among others Japan, France, US, Malaysia during this fortnight beginning 15th April till 30th April. 

At the end of the celebrations, the gathering dumped soyabean to symbolically mark the refusal to accept the imposition of Soyabean against our food preferences.

For Further Information Contact:
Ashok Emani
A-60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi ­ 110 016
Phone: 656 1868; 685 3772; Fax : 656 2093


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