Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World Consumer Day - Press briefing & release- 15th March 2011

DSC00635.JPGPress Release



Chennai, March 15th 2011: Citizens associated with the Safe Food Alliance in Tamil Nadu, to commemorate the Consumer Rights Day on March 15th decided
to do a unique thing – send a gift hamper of various local foods that are rich in Vitamin-A, to educate the Prime Minister about the rich diversity of sources that the poor have to access Vitamin A and other such nutrients, without having to resort to hazardous ‘solutions’ like Golden Rice. They were reacting to the Prime Minister’s endorsement to this controversial technology during a recent international conference in
Delhi called ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health’, wherein he is quoted as saying ‘Golden Rice containing beta-carotene provides the calories as well as nutritional supplements that take care of several diseases associated with Vitamin A deficiency’. Activists now gifted him with several local, affordable and safe options and wanted to know why the government is not promoting such options with the poor in the country, if it were not for providing business opportunities in the name of GM foods for
big agri-corporations.

“There are so many nutritious foods that the poor can access if there is large scale pro- active education and campaigning that the government takes up everywhere; these are foods that are affordable and safe. On the one hand, there is large scale promotion of unhealthy foods that is happening in various ways, weaning people away from time- tested healthy foods. On the other hand, the process of Genetic Engineering with which
this Golden Rice has been created is laden with imprecision and unpredictability and studies indicate various adverse health impacts including organ damage, stunted growth and metabolism, impaired immunity etc. How can the government subject its poor people to such hazardous food as though no real solutions exist and treat Indians as lab rats in an irresponsible and irreversible experiment? We urge concerned citizens to send Vit-A rich local foods like drumstick leaves and curry leaves to the Prime Minister in envelopes so that he is educated on the subject”, said Dr G Sivaraman of Poovalagin Nanbargal.

The Alliance announced that very soon, a consumer awareness campaign against GM foods called I AM NO LAB RAT will be re-launched in the state. As the first event in the campaign, an Organic Food Mela is being organized on March 19th, a Saturday, to mark Consumer Rights Day. The mela, to be held in the Marina Beach on March 19th afternoon, would have stalls which will display local seed and food diversity, organic
foods, information on chemical pesticides and GM foods, the need to shift to organic foods etc . The event will have the endorsement of many prominent citizens including celebrities of tamil cinema world.

They also objected to the state government allowing Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) to take up GM Maize trials in the state on behalf of Monsanto.

“The Tamil Nadu government seems to have forgotten the large scale opposition to GM foods that was witnessed in this state and all over the country during the Bt Brinjal debate last year. Field trials of a transgenic crop like GM Maize seem to be conducted by TNAU. GM maize poses health and environmental risks both because the agri-chemical use in the form of herbicide increases in the crop and also because of the GE technology used. While a GM crop like Bt cotton has been brought into the country on claims of
decreasing pesticide use, GM maize will actually increase use of pesticides like glyphosate! There is an emerging body of evidence against this chemical and its harmful impacts from around the world. Moreover, Monsanto is infamous for its anti-farmer profiteering operations everywhere – why should a public sector institution like TNAU be furthering the profit-mongering of this corporation? Are they on the side of ordinary
citizens in the state or on the side of Monsanto – given the nature of this largest seed corporation, TNAU cannot claim to be on the side of both citizens and Monsanto. It is also a shame that the Vice Chancellor is reported to be claiming that Bt brinjal’s academic reports find that there is no biosafety risk – can he show what were the experiments conducted, the parameters analysed and which studies or reports show this?
150320111444.jpgOn the other hand, recent analyses of the biosafety data of Bt brinjal clearly shows that there are indeed health risks to consumers; it was also shown that the crop developers masked data and the regulators ignored this. We demand that the Tamil Nadu government, to whom the TNAU is accountable, should instruct the University not to
take up any GM crop trials. Instead, the University should promote its findings on successful IPM on brinjal with methods like pheromones traps etc.”, said Professor Dr. Sultan Ismail.

The activists also wanted all political parties in Tamil Nadu to clearly state their stand on issues like GM and pesticides and issue clear support for sustainable (ecological as well
as economical) agriculture in the run up to the elections and incorporate the demands on safe food in their respective manifestos.

For more information, contact: Dr. Sivaraman, 9444027455 or or Prof. Sultan Ismail, 9384898358
or Selvaganapathy, 9790951652 of Safe Food Alliance, Chennai.


150320111460.jpgSFA Charter of Demands:

Say NO to GM food. Lack of transparent tests or analysis means its not Safe. Let
us not test it on poor citizens. Studies show harmful effects and Toxic residues.
Worldwide many Scientists disapprove of it and have lots of concerns over
insufficient research, hence pronouncing it unsafe for human consumption. Bio
Safety is a predominant factor.
Stop all Field Trials. The Corporates like Monsanto use the public funded
universities to conduct field trials which are a great concern. Like The Bihar
Government has done now- banning all GM trials within the state, approved by
the MOEF, Tamil Nadu government also should stop field trials. Open air field
trials pose great risks of contamination and biosafety violations as has been seen
in numerous instances in the past
Integrate all Agriculture related departments and emphasize ecologically
sustainable practices.
Create a high level committee at the state level and nominate balanced, well
informed, open scientists and experts to promote ecologically sustainable farming.
Work towards Economic sustainability and Income security of Agricultural
families. Impoverished farmers affect the whole society at large. Frame policies
that are inclusive of all involved in Food production- large agrarian community
including small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and agri labourers.
Thrust for Ecological sustainability is of utmost importance. With severe
decline of soil fertility and soil health, Water contamination due to over use
of pesticides and chemicals, air pollution etc the impact on ecology has been
drastic. Measures to revive them need strong sustainable agriculture methods.
Government to form bodies and policies to promote this.
Subsidy and incentives for ecological farming. Also come out with a per acre
compensation for organic farmers recognizing the ecological saving it brings
forth. Protect the Bio diversity and hence biological pest control, naturally.
Ensure access and control over productive resources. All resources like
seed, water, land and jungle to be treated as primary resources of agriculture
and hence control over them should be given to farming community and not
Ensure non-toxic, nutritive, healthy food for all consumers including the
producers i.e. farmers.
Seed conservation. Adopt policies that promote seed self-reliance amongst
farming communities. Encourage community seed conservation and save seed
sovereignty. Protect from onslaught of corporate/multinational monopolies.
Create and encourage Model Organic farms at each Block level
Promote Traditional practices, old techniques that far outweigh the newer ones
in cost and ecological impacts.
Create Special market for Natural and Organic produce with fair Price. Thrust on
decentralised infrastructure for storage/processing/value addition at farmers' level
Consolidated and just approach that result in a better pricing structure adhering to
fair price for the producer than other compulsions pushing the whole farming in
to crisis. Thus avoiding the looming agrarian crisis.
Encourage renewable energy at farms. Introduce schemes to support such
Strong rules to stop industrial pollution in to agricultural lands, neighborhoods
and water ways.

Download the Press Kit with the Photos here

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