1181/2146, Ratnakar Bag - 2
Bhubaneswar - 751018
INDIAN HEALTH MINISTER EXPRESSES OPPOSITION TO GM CROPS
Bhubaneswar: Speaking at a public meeting of farmers from all over Tamil Nadu at Kancheepuram yeaterday, the Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss has expressed his opposition to GM cropsand Bt Brinjal in particular. "PMK has always opposed GM seeds. As a Minister of PMK and as the Union Health Minister, I will continue to oppose it. As far as the recent controversy of Bt Brinjal is concerned, it is being brought into the country without proper research on its safety. We should oppose it collectively. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare as a policy will ensure holistic research of Bt Brinjal, including (on) health impacts and farmers' issues. We will not permit it into India otherwise".
Earlier, members of various farmers groups drew the attention of the Minister to the various concerns related to GM crops and foods and the farmers presented him with a memorandum. The Minister, in his speech said, "When there are so many indigenous varieties of brinjal in each region of India, where is there a need to borrow this Bt Brinjal from other countries?".
The Health Minister's statement in this meeting is unsurprising given that PMK, his party, was the first political party to take a clear stand against GM crops in India. Further, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss is known for his progressive political stand on issues like tobacco and alcohol.
On December 4th, a group of doctors from different streams of medicinal systems, including Dr R N Dutta the President of the Orissa Homeopathic Druggists Association, sought to meet with the Health Minister to express their serious concerns with regard to GM foods. They submitted a memorandum to the Minister pointing out that Genetic Engineering in our food and farming is inherently risky and irreversible and that decision-making in India is currently happening based on the crop developer's data without any independent research for assessing long term effects.
The Minister has also been receiving thousands of faxes from all over the country as part of the "I Am No Lab Rat" campaign launched by the Coalition for a GM-Free India and Hamara Beej Abhiyan. So far, more than 70000 Indians, including thousands from Orissa, have endorsed a petition to the Health Minister saying that they refuse to become guinea pigs in this experimentation with GE foods.
Living Farms, Bhubaneswar, along with consumer, environmental, women's and organic farming groups from all over the country reacted by thanking the Minister for the progressive view he took on this matter, with his scientific background and for putting the interests and health of ordinary consumers of India at the centre of his policy with regard to GM crops and foods.
Living Farms, an organisation campaigning the introduction of GM crops including Bt Cotton into Orissa and the threat from the introduction of Bt Brinjal into the State since the last many years has welcomed the stance taken by the Union Health Minister and has thanked the people of Orissa for having actively participated in the "I AM NO LAB RAT" campaign. The organisation emphasised that the campaign will continue in order to create awareness about the various hazards of GM food..
"The fight is not yet over as Orissa is in the grip of large scale illegal cultivation of Bt Cotton and there has not been any declaration that the proposed field trials of Bt Brinjal in Orissa will be stopped. The threat therefore still remains as it is uncertain whether seed multinationals will stop their ongoing efforts to force Bt Brinjal and other genetically modified food crops into Orissa." "Just as Bt Cotton has entered Orissa illegally and with the full knowledge of the state administration what is the guarantee that other GM crops too will not enter into the state in the same fashion?"
Debjeet Sarangi, Jagannath Chatterjee