Friday, January 22, 2010
The following is a quick rough translation of the Editorial in the major Tamil Daily, Dinamani appearing on 22nd January 2010 regarding the Ministerial spat over Bt Brinjal and covers the entire issue rather well.
Naamdaan Kidaithooma (are we the only guinea pigs available?)
The issue of the Bt Brinjal has blown wide open and for everyone to see now. While the Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar claimed that the Expert Committee recommendation on Bt Brinjal is final, the statement by Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh the very next day has rebutting this and stating that the final decision should rest with the government has given us much hope.
Sharad Pawar is the single leader of one of the coalition partners of the Congress Government in the Centre, the NCP. His recent decisions have been detrimental to the cause of the common man, particular farmers and has met with severe criticism as it seem to be largely favouring sugar mill owners, large traders, importers of food grains. While has shown no interest in increasing the procurement cost for paddy, wheat or sugarcane, his enthusiasm in procuring imported wheat at a higher price has caused heart burn among wheat farmers in particular.
The reason to recollect all this is to provide the backdrop for the current discussion on Bt Brinjal. Sharad Pawar’s statement that the Expert Committee recommendation is final could have created a catastrophy to this country. Thankfully Jairam Ramesh has reined in Sharad Pawar with his statement.
Bt Brinjal seeds are marketed by Mahyco, a name for an American Multinational company to sell seeds in India with a window dressing of few Indian names in it. The wonder is that this genetically modified brinjal has neither been planted large scale nor tested directly in any part of the world.
The Bt Brinjal, unlike Bt Cotton is a food product that is directly consumed by our people. The consequences of its toxic contamination and its consequences need no overstating. Also, while thousands of hectares of cultivable land is available in Developed Countries such as America, the lands of a gullible nation like ours is used for such experimentation is a clever tactic that certainly has not escaped our notice. How this strategy has escaped a strategist and clever politician such as Sharad Pawar is a big question.
Several thousand farmers have committed suicide after their Bt Cotton crop failed. The same Multinational does not seem to have given them any compensation. The labourers handling this variety of cotton in mills too have registered rashes and other ailments. We should not forget the fact that it took us quite a long time to shed the pride of Green Revolution and understand its long term (disastrous) consequences.
The Bt Brinjal has been introduced in India only by a Multinational Corporate. Their intentions are not that Indians should have more revenue from their Brinjal crops or that they should use less chemical pesticides or that their yield should go up by 3 or 5 fold. Though such claims are made for the purpose of advertising, their actual intention is to ensure that our traditional varieties of Brinjal are no longer cultivated. Once that happens, if we want to buy any Brinjal, we will have to rely on one Multinational or another, the price we pay for that will be heavy.
If we leave the commercial aspect aside for a moment, how can we estimate the damage due to the Bt Brinjal to the soil and environment? Let us remain the conservative suspicious fools, but, let us for a moment ask this question as to who will save us tomorrow if these seeds cause some damage to us? Where is the Multinational Union Carbide that caused deaths of thousands of people in Bhopal? Where is its Chairman Anderson, a prime accused in the case? What are the efforts that the Manmohan Singh government undertaken to bring Anderson to book? What is the status of those victim of Bhopal who still haven’t got adequate compensation and continue to suffer its consequences?
If such a fate befalls the users (or consumers) of Bt Brinjal tomorrow, who will help them? Should we forsake our traditional varieties of Brinjal and the future health of our soil to these ‘patriots’ who are negotiating to get a very low compensation even if there is a disaster due to a Nuclear plant with Multinationals setting up such plants.
TO uproot the British Empire, Gandhiji lifted a handful of salt at Dandi. We need to decide whether we use any salt in our food (to be provoked by the current situation). Alas, when the public vote is negotiated for a 500 and 1000 rupee note, what difference does it make if the negotiator is our own Sharad Pawar or the American Anderson?
Posted by Ram at 4:00 AM