Monday, October 21, 2013

CHENNAI MARCHES AGAINST MONSANTO, AND FOR SAFE FOOD



CHENNAI MARCHES AGAINST MONSANTO, AND FOR SAFE FOOD:
Chennaites’ loud NO to GMOs and corporatisation of food/farming systems


Chennai, October 12th 2013: Chennai was not to be left behind in a Global March Against Monsanto on October 12th – a very impressive and colorful gathering of citizens on Marina Beach loudly pronounced the rejection of the public here of GMOs in our food and farming, and of corporatisation of our food systems. Cab drivers, students, IT sector employees, activists, film actors, artists and numerous others jostled with each other this evening, while proclaiming that their right to safe food cannot be violated by anyone.

We are Marching Against Monsanto here today because Monsanto is really the poster-child of corporate greed and corporate crimes against citizens and the environment. Monsanto is notorious for a variety of misdeeds. In India, our governments seem to be putting out the red carpet for Monsanto, projecting it as a corporation which will save our farmers and farming. However, it is important to note that Monsanto’s history has lessons to teach us about what this corporation is actually all about: it has not hesitated to sue and jail farmers in the name of intellectual property rights, on the ‘crime’ of having used its proprietary products when they use farm-saved seed or even when a farmer’s crop gets contaminated from neighboring fields! It is notorious for polluting natural resources of communities, killing and maiming humans with its products, bribing officials for approvals, falsifying safety reports to show the toxic products as safe, colluding with regulators through a system of revolving doors, false advertising etc. It is a matter of great alarm that governments are getting into partnerships with this corporation and jeopardizing seed sovereignty of Indian farmers. We are here to show corporations like Monsanto that citizens of India do care about the distress of Indian farmers and will not tolerate Monsanto jeopardizing our farming, food and environment”, said Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance.

The gathering on the Beach was supported by noted celebrities like Pasupathy, Gowthami, Rohini, Director Vasanth, AAdhi, singer Sangeetha Sivakumar and others.

Kumari from Gandhi farmers collective, Villupuram observed that given Monsanto’s controversial history and given the huge money power that it holds (its annual gross profit for 2012 was around 46,500 crores of rupees, which is more than five years’ outlays for India’s National Agriculture Development Programme!), it is not surprising that some Ministries of the Government of India and some state governments are going against citizens’ demand for a GM-Free India and promoting the corporation’s interests, including by using taxpayers’ funds.
We are under threat from the hazardous products that Monsanto wants to profiteer from - these are products that affect the very food that we eat to survive and stay healthy and our environment. These are products that have the potential to jeopardise future generations too. I want to protect my children from the threat of GMOs and pesticides. That is why I am marching here today. I want the government also to take note of my demand, and to uphold my right to safe and nutritious food”, said Shuba, a Chennai housewife.
Vettavalam Manikandan, State President of Tamil Nadu farmers association explained that while the protest was against Monsanto in particular, this is also a message to all such corporations that citizens are conscious of developments in the areas of food and farming and that they will not tolerate scaremongering by GM proponents that without GM crops, the country will starve. “Our farmers have always produced enough and more to feed the country – however, the government and these corporations do not always have the best interests of our anna daatas in mind. As a prominent farmers’ union of the state, this is a clear statement from us: we will not allow any open air field trials of GM food crops in the state”.
This is a corporation that has not hesitated to sue governments – whether it was a matter related to exorbitant royalties/licensing fees being collected from Indian farmers, or whether it was about being transparent about the data related to safety of products like Bt brinjal, or whether it was about paying up compensation to farmers incurring losses due to poor seed quality, Monsanto and its associates have defied public interest time and again. Why should anyone be trusting this company to stand on the side of the public, or our anna daatas? If any government/party is siding with this corporation and the agriculture development model it stands for, including its hazardous technologies, we want to tell that government that we as citizens are not in support of that government/party”, said Sheelu Francis, of  Tamil Nadu Womens Collective.
Dr V Suresh, National General Secretary of PUCL said, “While real issues of hunger and malnutrition stare us in the face in India due to access and distribution issues related to structural inequities, it is disgusting to see the PR stunts of corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, where they first sponsor the World Food Prize Foundation and then award themselves and their scientists this year’s World Food Prize. This year, the World Food Prize forum stands exposed for what it is, much more than in the past. We are here to emphasise that the Right To Food, and Food Security and Sovereignty lie elsewhere and cannot be entrusted to these corporations”.
Similar Marches were held all over India as well as the world today, including protest events organized in Tanjavur, Erode etc. In Tiruvarur this morning over 1000 farmers participated in an event organized by “Save our Rice Campaign TN” led by R Jayaraman, and listened to the keynote address by Dr G Nammalvar, organic farming pioneer and scientist.
Marchers in Chennai, including physicians, farmers, social activists, lawyers, students, home makers, food and grain traders, also took part in an exchange of traditional seeds. There was a street play by koothu-p-pattarai and a thudumbattam performance (an old Tamil percussion instrument with a traditional dance) which attracted a large crowd of onlookers, many of whom joined the protest.
For more information, contact: Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance via email at ananthoo@gmail.com. 9444166779;  Dr. Shivaraman, SFA : 9444027455; Ram, Samanvaya : 9444957781



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