People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 08

February 21, 2010

AIKS Welcomes Hold on Release of Bt Brinjal

 

ON February 9, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) took a positive note of the announcement made by the ministry of environment and forests, to the effect that it would not impose a decision on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal till such time as independent scientific studies establish the safety of the product from a long-term view of human health. This decision has evidently come as a result of the organised protests by various organisations, scientists, farmers and state governments. The decision to seek public feedback and the assertion by the minister that there will be no hasty decision on the matter was an acknowledgement of the concerns collectively articulated by farmers’ organisations, scientists and civil society groups across the country. However, the AIKS has warned that even though the latest announcement is a significant victory in the struggle against predatory agribusinesses like Monsanto, the fight is far from over.

In its statement issued on the day, the AIKS has also expressed its opinion that advances in science and technology should be used for advancing the food security and living conditions of the peasantry. At the same time, the use of new technologies should be consistent with the safety of the environment and our people. The sovereign rights of the country on its biological resources cannot be compromised for the sake of catering to needs of the multinational corporations (MNCs).

The organisation is also of the view that new technologies should not lead to a monopoly and that the seeds produced by such advanced technology should not lead to the control of global multinationals on Indian agriculture. The MNCs continue to retain their monopoly over seeds and there is no regulation on them. There is the threat of all future seeds and therefore Indian agriculture coming under the control of these giant MNCs that charge extortionate prices from Indian farmers. The AIKS has demanded the establishment of a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority, suitably empowered to protect the interests of the peasantry.

At present the autonomy of agricultural research institutions is being compromised to favour the MNCs and take forward policies prescribed by seed monopolies. This is clear from the basic thrust of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in regard to agriculture, and the inclusion of Monsanto and WalMart on its board is an indicator of what is in store for agricultural research. Indian institutions like the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and Tamilnadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore are already working with Monsanto and Mahyco. Notably, even the ‘Guidelines For Food Safety 2008’ were drawn from the ICMR-South Asia Bio-Safety Program held under the aegis of USAID-ABSP, with experts from Monsanto and Syngenta playing a major role.

The AIKS has demanded that priority must be given in genetic modification to the incorporation of genes, which can help impart resistance to drought, salinity and other abiotic stresses. This will be beneficial in the long run. Such prioritisation of agenda, also suggested by the National Farmers’ Commission, is possible only if our public sector agricultural research institutions take the lead in developing suitable GM crops. The government is not showing any interest in promoting such research.

The AIKS is categorical that the interests of farmers, agricultural research and the people of the country has to be defended, and that is non-negotiable. The Kisan Sabha has said it will rally all the like-minded organisations to ensure that the interests of the peasantry and the consumers, the autonomy of agricultural research and agriculture in general is protected from the onslaught of profit seeking predatory agri-businesses like Monsanto.