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Know What You Eat: Six Simple Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Support GM Crops!

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By Syed Essam Rashid:

What are GM crops? I confess I myself did not understand much about it and was oblivious to the hoopla surrounding it. The topic has been of intense debate in India since the introduction of BT cotton in 2002. The Government is showing queer interest in passing the BRAI(Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) Bill which would allow easy entry of GM crops in India. Scientists, organizations and general public have accused the Government of ignoring the key after-effects of growing GM crops.

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Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are crops which have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Individual genes which promote durability or nutritional value are transferred from one organism to another to create biologically robust plants.

Concerns:

1. Some of the health effects for using GM crops include allergic reactions and transfer of antibiotic resistant genes from the crops into the human system. Further, there have been no long-term studies for acute or chronic health risks in humans. We do not know what effects will these crops have on us in the long run, whether they will be as healthy as the organic crops, or could lead to some abnormality. Whatever it is, we need more state-funded, non-industry research before accepting GM food into our diets.

2. Chemical companies that create GM seeds such as Monsanto, the sole owner of BT cotton – the only GM crop currently being commercially cultivated in India, patent their seeds so farmers have to buy new seeds each year. This would essentially lead to chemical companies controlling our food supply!

3. To top it, they also indulge in malpractices, as was evident in Maharashtra last year when farmers complained against Monsanto for deliberately selling low quality seeds. In a primarily agrarian economy such as ours, this capitalist control over our farmers is the last thing we need.

4. Say we allow the introduction of GM food crops in India .This would lead to further modification of other crops. Where does it stop then? These multi-national companies pay no heed to the social and ethnic responsibilities in their quest for profit. The idea for introduction of genes from animals into plants is not entirely new. Yeah, imagine that!

5. Also, the scientists believe that the continuous use of GM crops would almost certainly lead to BT-resistant insects. That is one of the main reasons cited for using GM crops and it will, in some time, stand void. We would be back to square one.

6. Some other concerns cited in using GM crops include cross-breeding with the surrounding vegetation, the non-GM crops or even weeds, transferring undesired characteristics.

Current Scenario:

When on one hand India faces the problem of storing the food it produces, with massive amounts rotting in the under-equipped storage houses, the Government’s unusual keenness to introduce GM food crops for ensuring ‘food security’ smells fishy.

In August 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report recommended that “for the time being, all research and development activities on transgenic crops should be carried out only in containment and the ongoing field trials in all states should be discontinued forthwith.” The Government, ignoring the Standing Committee recommendations tabled the highly condemned BRAI Bill in April this year. Now, owing to increasing public pressure, the bill has again been transferred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The committee through an advertisement is seeking views and suggestions on the proposed law.

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  1. Raj

    I do not agree with all the points that have been raised :

    1) I agree that we need more independent research, whether it comes from the the industry or state, it’s OK. But more importantly we have to accept GM crops as the future and work with it. Otherwise we risk

    2) The farmers can choose not to buy those seeds.And frankly their complains are not well-founded since they had many more issues like draught etc. which led to crop failures.
    And isn’t our food supply already in the hands of private entities i.e. the farmers? Are most of the farmers Govt. employees? No! We are already dependent on private enterprises for our food supply.

    3) We need more capitalist intervention in the agriculture sector. Already the farmers are capitalists themselves since they own/rent the land, they decide what to plant, how to sell and at what rate to sell. The Govt. does none of this. So I don’t understand what you mean by capitalist control.
    Are you talking about corporate control? I think yes, they too should be allowed. They will be able to grow food on an industrial scale rather than the craftsmen scale that farmers grow.

    4) “multi-national companies pay no heed to the social and ethnic responsibilities in their quest for profit.” Oh really? And Public Sector Unit companies do that (Think of the corruption and waste in PSUs like Air India)? Do the farmers do that?(Think of the soil erosion and habitat destruction they do). Please point out those angels who altruistically grow food and don’t care about their profits.
    So why single out the MNCs? .

    5) Insects evolve! Germs evolve! And so must we, if we have to grow food for our massive population

    6) This is certainly possible and must be researched. Also private property laws must be strengthened in order to punish entities that cause unwanted effects on somebody else’s property.

    The food storage issue can be solved if you allow more corporate participation in the agri-business sector and stop the inefficient and indifferent monopolistic FCI from operating the go-downs. You should ask and see why Parle, ITC(Sunfeast, Aashirwaad Atta) etc. have such excellent storage facilities and waste so less as compared to the FCI.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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