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Say NO to India's Crop being Genetically Engineered

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To: Dr. Man Mohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Dear Dr. Singh,

Indian rice, vegetables and feed crops are now seriously under threat of almost certain contamination from genetically engineered seeds. This is because the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], an inter-ministerial body charged with the responsibility of approving field trials of food and feed crops is facilitating open field trials of genetically engineered seeds of trans-national corporations. The profound truth is that:

* GM crops remain untested and present unique risks to the bio-safety of our planet. Their potential harmful impacts of many magnitudes are still not understood and will affect our lives in ways unimaginable.

* Transgenic contamination of the natural environment is a biological certainty and is not disputed. Along with Climate Change, GMOs threaten us with unprecedented global ecological crises, whose impacts will be in perpetuity.

* The stated goal of these biotech GE companies is to have monopoly control of the world’s seed supply and eventually genetically modify global seed stock. To achieve this diabolical objective, India’s precious biodiversity and genetic wealth is a particular target.

* Small and poor farmers are manipulated into field-testing experimental GM crops through the inducement of paltry sums of money and the trust reposed in the ‘approvals’ granted by the official Regulator. Our farmer’s have no real comprehension of what they are being asked to grow, nor the enormity of the adverse implications for farm economics, their livelihoods, contamination, food safety and health.

Despite the evidence of serious hazards, the GEAC, the official Regulator appointed by the Government of India, has not discharged its responsibilities with due diligence. At a single meeting of its committee, it approved wholesale, and with recklessness unmatched in any other country, an astonishing array of over 150 open field trials of every conceivable variety of GM Crops. The approvals cover bulk commodities like rice, wheat and oilseeds among others as well as the full range of vegetable crops, e.g. aubergine, tomato, potato and okra, etc.

Indian rice [both Basmati and non-basmati] is exported to 92 countries. People buy Indian rice in good faith that the rice is a natural, not a genetically engineered, crop. In 2006, the GEAC has approved open field trials of six varieties of Bt rice in 10 out of 25 States in India. Farmers’ associations have filed law suits against officials in charge of supervising field trials. Some, fearing contamination, have burnt fields in which GM crops were being tested. If not immediately stopped, open trials of genetically engineered rice seeds can cause havoc through cross-pollination and contamination of natural rice crops. Many rice importing countries have zero tolerance for contamination, which will seriously affect India’s farmers and rice traders.

In India every intelligent farmer saves seeds and the onslaught is on farmers’ rights around seeds: the right not to be contaminated and grow Non-GM crops. If contamination is not halted and the diverse traditional varieties are not protected, our seed stock will be contaminated irreversibly; farmers will be unable to keep their lands and our earth GM-free. Therefore, opposition to the merciless onslaught of the big biotech seeds companies is growing and rightly so.

Sovereign issues of biodiversity, safe food, food security and trade, are being compromised to promote the commercial interests of big biotech seeds companies.

Therefore, time is of the essence for remedial action. We request you to

1. Bring forth an Act or an Ordinance banning all open field trials of genetically engineered seeds. If you do not decisively intervene terminating all field trials, India and its neighbouring farming nations will be irreversibly contaminated and lose security of food and nutrition forever.

2. Establish an independent and autonomous Ombudsman with a mandate for the protection of India’s bio-safety starting with the impacts of GMOs. If the GEAC’s reckless rush into GM foods is not checked, this process will be the fastest and riskiest experiment ever conducted, anywhere in the world, with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health, our forests, our wilderness and our countryside. GM crops, unless stopped right now, will change the molecular structure of the world’s food in perpetuity.

Genetically engineered crops and foods truly present the gravest global threat to biodiversity and to survival. We are not against science. We are against spurious technology that is being promoted as sound science.

We, the undersigned, appeal to you, Honourable Prime Minister, to urgently take all appropriate measures to effectively stop all open field trials of all genetically engineered seeds in India. Because of the seriousness of the matter, we ask that you consider this issue with highest priority.