Friday, December 30, 2011

Scientific Fraud: Coalition demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research & action against fraudulent scientists

Coalition for a GM-Free India demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research and an independent enquiry and action against fraudulent scientists.
New Delhi, December 30, 2011: 2011 ends with a big blot to the Indian scientific community, as was the case in 2010 too. The much-hyped public sector  lines (Bikaneri Narma Bt variety and NHH-44 Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is actually found to have a Bt gene originally patented by Monsanto. The ICAR had to withdraw the production of these ‘indigenous’ GM cotton seeds, based on this development. In effect the Indian biotechnologists, supported with enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money doing research on developing indigenous “biotechnology products” have misled the nation by passing off the Monsanto technology as their own, the Coalition for a GM-Free India stated. The Coalition demanded that the Government stop all transgenic research in the public sector immediately, setup a high-level independent inquiry into the current case as well as all other research projects. It also demanded that this issue be seen as an act of corruption and fraud and severe deterrent action be taken against all the institutions and scientists involved.
In India, the majority of transgenic products in the R&D pipeline are from public sector institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network project on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of Rs 100 crores in the XI Plan.
The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the NHH-44 Bt (hybrid) expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein. The developers CICR & UAS claimed that BN Bt carries the cry1Ac (Truncated and codon-modified) gene which ‘is very similar to the Cry 1Ac toxin expressed by MON 531 event developed by M/s Monsanto as well as event 1 of IIT, Kharagpur’, both of which are already under commercial cultivation. A CICR newsletter (Vol.24, No.2, Apr-June 2008) soon after the GEAC approval for transgenic BN Bt claimed that the development of this Bt cotton was initiated under the World-Bank-funded NATP from 2000 onwards. The Bt cry1AC gene in this instance was supposed to have been developed by the NRCPB of the IARI along with CICR and the transfer into popular cultivars is supposed to be taken up by UAS-Dharwad.
During deliberations in the GEAC about this, the members first gave approval for large-scale field trials (LSTs) during the GEAC meeting on April 2, 2008 and then in the next meeting on 2nd May 2008 reviewed the decision and gave approval for commercialization of BN Bt without conducting LSTs. The rationale was that since the seeds of BN Bt could be saved by farmers, a large scale field trial is tantamount to commercial release! However one year after its much publicized release BN Bt was withdrawn from the market without any explanation and no reports were made available about its performance till then. The same Bt construct was used to develop hybrid Bt cotton, namely NHH 44. YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan, two constituents of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, brought out a report in 2010, on “Performance of CICR’s Bt Cotton in 2009 – a survey report” (available at which showed that BN Bt had failed to perform in farmers’ fields and the claims were belied. The worse thing was that there was no accountability fixed on anyone for this failure. In this report released in October 2010 itself, the Coalition demanded that ‘CICR come out in the open to state exactly what the problem is which made BN Bt seed supply vanish from the market exactly one season after its entry’ (pp.11).
Now it has come to light through an RTI that there is nothing indigenous about this Bt construct used by CICR & UAS and it has Monsanto’s cry1Ac gene. As per news media stories, the NARS appears to be defending this episode by explaining it away as “contamination”.  It is interesting to note that scientists who have rubbished “contamination” concerns expressed by civil society groups and others both for their environmental and IPR implications, are resorting to this phenomenon as their explanation now!
This raises a few pertinent questions:
·       How is it that the regulators who “rigorously” evaluated the product could not correctly identify the gene construct used? It puts to question the capabilities of the regulators.
·       Here it must also be highlighted that the then Director of CICR, Dr.Khadi was also a member of GEAC, a clear case of conflict of interest.
·       If it is indeed a case of contamination and the seed production had to be stopped given that Monsanto has proprietary rights over the genes and technology, what lies in store for all the other GM crops in the pipeline since contamination is inevitable?
·       Is it contamination or is it a scientific fraud related to incapability with regard to indigenous technology?
·       Who owns BN Bt cotton and NHH 44 Bt cotton now?  Have the Indian biotechnologists gratuitously gifted these to Monsanto through this action?
·       Is this all the country gets after big ticket investments on GM technology ignoring viable and safer mechanisms to deal with pests, diseases and climate threat?
This episode also highlights that the IPR issues related to transgenic technologies and the assumption by the Indian scientific community that they can use technologies patented by Monsanto and its ilk needs a serious re-think.
The Indian regulators, public sector scientists and NARS institutions are intent on promoting GM technologies to the exclusion of any other options despite serious evidence on the biosafety hazards connected with transgenics. In the light of this fiasco, claims about enormous indigenous capabilities (in this field) sound hollow. Such scientific frauds raise the question about how far the biotechnology scientists and regulators will go to force GM technologies into our agriculture and what motivates them. Why should the public be trusting these scientists who do not hestitate to resort to fraudulent practices?
Unfortunately this is not the first case of scientific fraud that the nation is witnessing. Last year witnessed the six premier Science Academies using plagiarized material to recommend and promote the release of Bt brinjal. Despite the report being dismissed by the then Minister for Environment & Forests as lacking scientific rigour, the Academies merely revised the section on Bt brinjal a little and put it back in the public domain claiming that they stand by their conclusions. There was no enquiry into the incident, no explanation about how it happened and no action taken against any entity. A clear demonstration of the contempt in which the scientific community holds the nation and the public, says the Coalition for a GM-Free India. It is interesting to note that Dr P Ananda Kumar of NRCPB is one of the lead ‘protagonists’ in these two scientific scandals. Further, Dr K C Bansal who coordinated the ICAR network project on transgenics till recently is now heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (custodian of plant genetic resources of the country!).
“The current UAS-D/CICR/IARI (NRCPB) fiasco proves once again that the Indian scientific community is not averse to scientific frauds and misleading the nation and the people. We do not need this technology force-fed to our farmers and consumers, we have sufficient workable and viable solutions for the agrarian crisis and demand that the government and public sector institutions work on these solutions rather than fraudulently promote GM technology”, said the Coalition.
It should also be remembered by certain political parties advocating public sector GM seeds that an inherently unsafe product does not become safer just because it comes from the public sector. In fact, accountability issues are murkier here, as has been seen in the case of the failure of CICR’s Bt cotton in the field, where large scale field trials have been waived off in favour of public sector GM research!
“All of this is ultimately experimentation happening at the expense of hapless Indian farmers and this is unconscionable. Severe deterrent action at the highest level is called for, in this case. We demand that a white paper be published on the investments made on this front so far by the government. Further, until all questions are answered including the actual technologies being used in the public sector transgenic R&D, IPR issues, future contamination possibilities etc., all funding to public sector transgenic projects should be immediately stopped. These scarce and valuable resources should be utilised for taking proven, safe, farmer-controlled technologies to the farmers”, demanded the Coalition.
For more information, contact:
  1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702;
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550;

ASHA opposes FDI in Retail

ASHA opposes FDI in Retail, on the following grounds:
That there is no evidence from elsewhere to show that big foreign retail will benefit local farmers or consumers; or will increase employment opportunities; or keep investments in the country by restricting outflows;
That the Indian situation warrants a good appreciation of the positive aspects of the current retail structure (like agricultural production, retailing also has traditionally been a community affair here) and any inefficiencies in these supply chains, or lack of infrastructure has to be addressed by the government in other ways since the FDI proposals have no mechanisms of ensuring this;
That food inflation too has to be tackled by other means, and FDI in retail cannot be made the destructive false means for this problem;
That such policy initiatives will in fact destroy millions of livelihoods including of farmers and create monopolies (including with agri-input giants and trading giants sharing the profits with big foreign retailers), leaving very few choices for farmers and consumers and very little control in their hands;
That this will lead to unsustainable production and consumption styles which completely negate the availability of alternatives within India. ASHA opposes any such policy moves by the government and its arguments are presented in this position paper.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Report on 10 years of Bt Cotton usage in Tamilnadu released

A review of the usage of Bt Cotton in Tamilnadu was released during the Press Meet as part of the Roundtable on BRAI at the ICSA Centre in Chennai. The report was compiled by Ms. Kavitha Karugunti, Convenor of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a national coalition of organic farmers and organic farming enthusiasts. Other who addressed the media included:
Dr. V. Suresh, National Secreatary, PUCL
Mr. Vellayan, President, Tamilnadu Traders Sangham
Mr. Vettavalam Manigandan, Farmer's Movement leader
Mr. R. Selvam, Convenor of the Organic Farmers federation of Tamilnadu and
Mr. Jayaraman, Federation of Consumers Organizations of Tamilnadu

Earlier as part of the meeting, Mr. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, from Thanal spoke of the field trials in Tamilnadu of GM Crops.
The key points of the report are:

  • Bt cotton expansion in Tamil Nadu did not increase in steady yield increases as claimed and hyped up. Tamil Nadu had high yields in cotton even in the years when it predominantly grew non-Bt varieties (not even hybrids).
  • Bt cotton cultivation in larger areas did not bring down the per-hectare or per quintal cost of cultivation as projected. The trends on this front have always been fluctuating and this continues.
  • Bt cotton cultivation and expansion to larger areas did not bring down the insecticide usage in cotton crop in Tamil Nadu. Further, Tamil Nadu had low average cost incurred on pesticides (indicative of lower use in volume too) even prior to Bt cotton introduction and the rationale for its approval is not clear in such a context. Spending on chemical fertilizers appears to be on an upward trend in cotton cultivation now.
  • There has been a large scale shift away from cotton varieties to sowing of Bt cotton hybrids raising many serious concerns around seed choices, seed prices and seed sovereignty, in addition to increasing chemicalisation of agriculture. This also raises valid questions on why Bt technology is seen as the cause for cotton yield increases, even by scientific institutions like the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; this is all the more perplexing in a context when pest incidence itself is reported low!
  • There have been major failures of Bt cotton crop over the years and the unpredictability of performance is apparent from this. However, farmers have not always obtained a redressal from such failures. There are serious questions around the lack of a liability regime which covers both penalties as well as compensation in addition to remediation where necessary.
(the report can be downloaded directly from the SFA site soon)

Leaders concur that BRAI has to go at the BRAI round table organized by SFA: 11/11/11. Chennai

Leaders from farmer organizations from all over the state, trading unions, lawyers, human rights activists, members of several political groups working in farming sector and concerned citizens have voiced their concern in the roundtable organized by Safe Food Alliance and Coalition for GM Free India in Chennai.

Photos from the Round table and Press Meet.

Press Release

Ask State Govt to raise its voice against the Bill and protect farmers’ interests – Seek disallowing of GM crop field trials in the state”

Chennai, November 11, 2011: Farmers’ leaders from all over Tamil Nadu, cutting across various affiliations, demanded that the Union Government should scrap the BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) Bill 2011, stating that it was a deeply flawed Bill. They asked the state government of Tamil Nadu to assert its constitutional authority over Agriculture, which this Bill seeks to violate. Farm activists wanted the state government and all TN Members of Parliament to raise objections against the BRAI Bill’s introduction in the winter session. They also urged the state government to ensure that no open-air field trials of GM crops are allowed in Tamil Nadu.

“The BRAI Bill is clearly against the interests of farmers and consumers and seeks to create a single-window fast-track clearance system for profit-hungry corporations. This is a Bill that is unconstitutional and undemocratic. It seeks to bypass the Right To Information Act in its intent to uphold the commercial interests of seed companies. The state government will not be allowed to have any say in the matter and this is clearly a violation of the federal polity enshrined in the Indian Constitution, wherein Agriculture is a State Subject”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Speaking at the end of a Round Table on BRAI Bill, Vettavalam Manikandan of Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam said, “The state government in recent months has taken the progressive steps of repealing the TNSAC Act and withdrawing a budgetary provision to promote Bt cotton in the state. The CM has also reminded in the National Development Council meeting that Agriculture is after all a State subject. In the same spirit, we hope the CM will write to the Centre to stop this draconian Bill”, he said.

Vellaiyan of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam said that the BRAI Bill is against the bottomline for regulatory regime recommended by a Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology which had mooted the idea of an independent regulator in the first instance! The bottomline was stated to be “the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade and the biosecurity of the nation. We need a biosafety protection statute and not BRAI”, he asserted.

“We would like the government to make the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University accountable to it and the farming communities in the state; very often, the TNAU is seen to be acting in the interests of profiteering corporations in the way they promote GM technology and take up numerous trials, despite enormous scientific evidence proving the dangers of transgenic technology. We know that in the case of the ABSP II project for the development of Bt brinjal varieties, several legal provisions have been violated and the National Biodiversity Authority has decided to proceed against the violators; an investigation is needed into TNAU’s partnerships with various corporations too”, said Sheelu Francis of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective.

Dr V Suresh, National Secretary of PUCL said that the BRAI Bill is against our Constitution. It is a part of the twenty first century global effort to colonise Indian agriculture by making food as a primary weapon and hand over our agriculture and food systems to profiteering corporations, thereby affecting our food sovereignty and food self sufficiency carefully built over sixty years of independent India.

“Tamil Nadu’s farmers have pioneered organic farming in the entire country; however, this organic farming movement in the state is being jeopardized now, because the state government is yet to take a firm stand against GMOs in general and BRAI Bill in particular, and given that GM technology is diametrically opposite in its approach and results, to organic farming! We urge the state government to come up with an organic farming policy for the state and stop the onslaught of GM on our farmers here, since we have safer and sustainable technologies to offer. We urge the government to not give any permission for open air field trials in the state, given that the GM technology is a living, imprecise, irreversible and unpredictable technology”, said Selvam Ramaswamy of Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation. He cited the example of several other states that have said NO to field trials.

Sharing the findings of a report she compiled on “A Decade of Bt cotton in Tamil Nadu” on the occasion, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture” pointed out that official records point out that yields of cotton have been fluctuating in the state despite major expansion of Bt cotton in the cotton cultivation in Tamil Nadu, that insecticide usage has not come down as predicted, that cost on pesticides was quite low to begin with, bringing to question the very rationale for the introduction of Bt technology in the state, that cost of cultivation has no declining trends to exhibit etc. “While this is not based on any primary study, the report is based on official figures;  this data hopefully will guide the state government in not being misled by the massive publicity that the biotech industry generates by spending its resources and hopefully, the Chief Minister will see the real picture for what it is”, she said.

The Round Table brought out a declaration rejecting the BRAI Bill 2011 in toto. Further, a Joint Action Forum was created consisting of eight prominent people’s leaders. Many other prominent persons like Duraimanickam of CPI-affiliated farmers’ union, Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance, Thooran Nambi, Ramasubramanian of Samanvaya, Jayaraman of FEDCOT, Dr Tirunarayanan from Centre from Traditional Medicine & Research, Padam Narayanan, Sundar of SJM, KM Ramasamy, non-political Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Eswaran of MDMK, N K Palaniswamy, ex-MLA, Kannaiyan S of SICCFM etc. joined the Round Table here in Chennai.

For more information, contact:

Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance: 09444166779,

Selvam, TN Organic Farmers’ Federation: 09443663562,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Round Table on BRAI, 11th Nov 2011 - Chennai

The Government of India's Ministry of Science & Technology is proposing to introduce the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2011 in the winter session of the Parliament. In this context, a Round Table of farmers', traders, consumer and other civil society organisations has been organised on November 11th 2011, at ICSA, # 107, Pantheon Road, Egmore by Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu and Coalition for a GM-Free India, a national level network of various farmer groups, activists, civil society members, scientists, doctors etc across India.  

Representatives of farmers' unions, traders' associations, consumer groups, organic farming networks from all over Tamil Nadu along with Kavitha Kuruganti - Covenor, Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA) and Sridhar Radhakrishnan - Convenor, Coalition for GM Free India, will address the media in this connection at 2.30 pm at the venue (ICSA). A report on "One Decade of Bt Cotton in Tamil Nadu" will be released on the occasion. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Release of "I am No Lab Rat"

The tamizh version of the short booklet against GM Food, "I am no Lab Rat" was released in Gandhigram in the network meeting on 27th August 2011. The booklet was released by Sri. M. R. Rajagopalan, former Secretary of Gandhigram Trust and received by Sri. Sundarraman, senior organic farmer from Sathyamangalam near Erode. (also in this picture: Paamayan & Ananthu)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Images from the 'Quit India Monsanto' protest in Chennai

The QUIT INDIA MONSANTO campaign in Chennai was organized by SAGE and Women's Collective on 9th Aug 2011 in front of the Memorial Hall (Opp. Govt. General Hospital). The members of the Collective shouted slogans and a few speakers urged the new State government to put a stop to all GM trials in the State and ensure that Tamilnadu is made a GM free state.
The small gathering attracted much attention and the colourfully attired protesters distributed handouts to the passer by many of whom stood to listen to the speeches in the busy road amidst bustling traffic. The police men on duty too were sympathetic to the cause, and, as one of them in the end observed, "it is sad that we don't get much crowd for such genuine causes, others call for gatherings promising biryani and liquor and large crowds turn up, these are the important issues"!  Reports of protests from other parts of Tamilnadu too are coming in, Sirgazhi had a crowd of over 120 people gathered and more than 500 people signed a petition to the Chief Minister, in Tanjavur farmer's held a demonstration as also in Tiruvarur, Puliyangudi and other parts. In Chennai, several city colleges are screening 'World According to Monsanto' and having discussions around the same with members of SFA and other organizations. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

9th August Quit India Movement: Quit India Monsanto Campaign

This 9th August, on the day Gandhiji called 'Quit India' to alien rule in India, SFA joins the ASHA network partners across India on, "Quit India Monsanto" campaign and the Kisan Swaraj Week that follows.

Details of different programmes across the State in this blog shortly...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Hindu : Today's Paper / NATIONAL : Cereal-based diet for tacklinghunger a “flawed prescription”

SFA in the press...

Safe Food Alliance / Press Release /14th June 2011

Today’s lecture “Critical Reflections on the History of Nutrition Science and Policy” by Veena Shatrugna
National Adviser on Nutrition to the Supreme Court Commissioner on Food Security traced the history
of malnutrition and widespread hunger in India and their correlation to the nature of scientific advances
in this area and how they informed the Nutrition Policy of the country.

Ms. Shatrugna described how the nutrition policy of the 50s and 60s systematically transformed the
diets of the poor in India to plain cereals as the major source, or perhaps the only source of calories,
devoid of any other nutrient. The consequences of this cereal overload, and nutritional depletion have
been far reaching, and are responsible for a large measure of the profile of ill health, and the epidemic
of chronic diseases in India. Much of the policy was based on the dietary habits of the upper caste ,
unsuitable for consumption by physically active people living in drylands and rainfed areas.

Given this situation of widespread hunger Dr. V Suresh, SC Appointed Adviser for TN to the SC Commr.
on Food Security and a co-organizer of the lecture emphasized the importance of Right to Food as a
cornerstone of all government policies and programmes. He sought attention on citizenship of water
and food in the Republic of Hunger that is India, questioning even the unclear numbers we have about
the number of people below poverty line(BPL).

Ananthoo, of Safe Food Alliance spoke about the importance of Safe Food – free of harmful toxic
pesticides and chemicals, and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He also
demanded that the new State government disallow all opne air GM trials within the state of Taminadu
citing more and more proof about the failure of bio safety of GM foods and crops that are coming from
independent sources each day. He highlighted the connection between the three – Right to Food ,
Nutrition and SFA’s demands of Right to Safe food devoid of hazardous chemicals and pescticides in the
food we consume every day.

Ramsubramanian, Safe Food Alliance (SFA) highlighted the need for
a. A Tamil Nadu state government policy on Organic agriculture. Though the state has one of the
largest and oldest Organic farming movements we still lack sufficient government support and
extension services.
b. Say no to GM in the state apart from declaring against open air trials of Genetically Modified
(GM) seeds in the state: recently-released independent analyses of Bt Brinjal that its toxic
effects have shown up in the biosafety studies undertaken by the crop developer.
c. Assurance of Safe Food for consumers and prevent the danger to the Nations food security by
the introduction of untested GM crops.
Genetically modified foods are neither safe for health nor ensure a secure future.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lecture: 'Career of Hunger - the role of Caste and Class in influencing Nutrition Policy, Policy makers and Science in India', 14th June Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Office of the Supreme Court appointed Adviser for Tamil Nadu to the Supreme Court commissioner on Food Security and Safe Food Campaign (SFA), Chennai

Invite you to a lecture by Dr. Veena Shatrugna, National Adviser on Nutrition to the Supreme Court Commissioner on Food Security on ' Career of Hunger - the role of Caste and Class in influencing Nutrition Policy, Policy makers and Science in India' 

at Sr. Helen Hall, Stella Maris College, Chennai on Tuesday 14th June, 2011 at 5.00 pm.
Lecture Abstract:
The nutritional status of the poor in India maybe described as alarming. Most of  the indicators of nutrition status such as adult weights, heights BMI, percentage of children who are severely malnourished, mean birth weighs, infant mortality rates, dietary intakes and unacknowledged starvation deaths confirm this fact.  Hunger is as widespread as it is invisible to the scientific eye.  The question that must be asked is how did India get into this trap of under nutrition with such serious consequences?

Chronic hunger as it exists in India can be largely traced to the rapid scientific advances in the area of food and nutrition analysis, and classification. In addition dietary requirements of populations from the 40s was laid out in terms of calories, with the assumption that foods which are culturally and regionally appropriate such as rice, eggs, milk, fowl, pulses, fish, greens, etc. would be consumed in quantities which would provide calories and all the other nutrients.  Nutrition research in the 50s and 60s though brilliantly innovative and deeply committed to the welfare of Indians, simplified the science of food further, with indices and correction factors, using  concepts like consumption units, biological value of proteins, RDA based on calories, calorie needs of workers, vegetable sources of proteins etc., which then became subjects for scientific research and fed into nutritional policy Over a short period these concepts were recast and deployed in administrative initiatives that, systematically transformed the diets of the poor in India to plain cereals as the major source,  or perhaps the only source of calories,  devoid of any other  nutrient. The consequences of this cereal overload, and nutritional depletion have been far reaching, and are responsible for a large measure of the profile of ill health, and the epidemic of chronic diseases in India.

This talk attempts to trace the steps in scientific and administrative thinking and policy that led to the nutritional and health impasse the people of this country are in.
Dr. Veena Shatrugna  is a medical doctor, has spent 34 years at the National Institute of Nutrition,  Hyderabad,  doing research  on the nutrition questions as they impact  women and children  in India. She has also worked in the area of women’s health,  and has authored  “Savaa laksha Sandhehalu”  a self help book for women in Telugu with a women’s collective called Stree Shakti Sangathana.

“Taking charge of our Bodies” is the English book with the same group of women. She is a member of Anveshi a Women’s studies organization based in Hyderabad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

SFA organizes Organic Food Mela in Chennai - 19th March 2011

SAFE FOOD ALLIANCE urges consumers to go organic and seek safe healthy
ORGANIC FOOD MELA attracts 1000s to safe healthy consumption.
Chennai 19th March 2011

Colorful Organic mela organized by Safe Food Alliance, at the Semmozhi Poonga
attracted 1000s to the various stalls set to showcase the seed diversity, organic food,
traditional rice and millets varieties, natural dyeing, ills of chemical pesticides and
GMO. There has been repeated proof in recent times that the sustainable and future of
agriculture is in the sphere of small, diverse farms growing food through sustainable
farming techniques using organic farming methods and the capacity of such methods to
feed the world.

‘The organic mela is the first of the several that the SFA group plans to hold across Tamil
Nadu to emphasis the goodness of organic food, the amazing nutritional value and health
through local millets and to emphasis on the need for consumer awareness on safe and
healthy eating habits. This is being organized as a fellow citizen to bring awareness about
our alienation from food and farming’ observed Ananthoo, coordinator of SFA. He also
added that consumers needed to have more understanding of food, farmer and farming to
create a win-win situation for both us consumers and for the farmers’.

‘While organic food leaves less carbon foot print and is kind on the ecology, it is also
more nutritive and free of adulteration. Such practices are not only safe options for
consumers but ecologically and economically sustainable for the farmers too’ said
Radhika who runs a not-for-profit organic store called Restore, along with friends.

The visitors had a chance to interact with organic farmers, women SHGs, experts and
celebrities during the course of the organic mela and also got to taste food made out
of traditional recipes from organic millets. They also had hands on exposure to natural
dyeing in one of the stalls. There were also other stalls on publications, hazards of
chemical pesticides and Genetically Modified food.

Genetically Modified food has been debated only amongst the few informed citizens,
farmers and scientists, though such food being introduced in the market will impact
the health and life of everyone who consumes the same. Safe Food Alliance along with
several organic farming networks across the state has been creating awareness and debate
on the need to reject such unnecessary and greed driven technology in agriculture. IAM
NO LAB RAT was a campaign with several celebrities participating that was launched
with the view of protesting against citizens being treated as a lab rat by corporate
scientists for an environmentally irreversible and safety wise untested GM food.
Dr G Sivaraman of Poovalagin Nanbargal said “The campaign is being currently re-
launched through a national network of sustainable agriculture practitioners and organic
food consumers. While we are not against technology per se, it should be safe beyond
any doubt, eco-friendly and be within reach of common man.” He also added that “we
are heartened by the response of the public in writing to the PM against the use of GM

food and their concerns about using the citizens as lab rats for corporate greed and profit.
There is a danger of the diversity and traditional varieties being lost.”

Earlier this week experts and activists of SFA gave a fitting response to the PM for
promoting GM rice by forwarding an unique gift hamper comprising various local foods
that are rich in Vitamin-A, but cost effective and easily accessible! Then they also urged
all political parties to clearly state their stand on sensitive 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

For more information, contact: Dr. Sivaraman, 9444027455 or or Selva Ganapathy 9790951652
or Ananthoo, 9444166779 of Safe Food Alliance, Chennai.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SFA media briefing - press clips

Following is from Dinamani, one of the largest Tamil Dailies (link)

பிரதமருக்கு முருங்கைக் கீரை-பப்பாளி!

First Published : 16 Mar 2011 04:56:38 AM IST

சென்னை, மார்ச் 15: வைட்டமின் ஏ சத்து நிறைந்த முருங்கைக் கீரை, பப்பாளி, தண்டுக் கீரை, கேரட், தினை அரிசி ஆகியவற்றை பிரதமர் மன்மோகன் சிங்கிடம், ""பாதுகாப்பான உணவிற்கான கூட்டமைப்பை''ச் சேர்ந்தவர்கள் அளிக்க உள்ளனர்.
பாதுகாப்பான உணவிற்கான கூட்டமைப்பைச் சேர்ந்த டாக்டர் சுல்தான் இஸ்மாயில், டாக்டர் ஜி.சிவராமன், அனந்து, செல்வகணபதி ஆகியோர் உலக நுகர்வோர் உரிமை தினத்தை (மார்ச் 15) முன்னிட்டு செய்தியாளர்களிடம் செவ்வாய்க்கிழமை கூறியதாவது:
""தில்லியில் சர்வதேச வேளாண் கருத்தரங்கை பிரதமர் மன்மோகன் சிங் அண்மையில் தொடங்கி வைத்துப் பேசும்போது, மரபணு தொழில்நுட்பத்தில் உருவாக்கப்பட்ட வைட்டமின் ஏ சத்து செறிவூட்டப்பட்ட கோல்டன் அரிசி தேவை என்றார்.
இந்தியாவுக்கு இத்தகைய அரிசி தேவை இல்லை. இந்திய மருத்துவ ஆய்வியல் நிறுவனத்தின் தினசரி உணவுப் பரிந்துரைப் பட்டியலின்படி, "கோல்டன் அரிசியிலிருந்து' வைட்டமின் ஏ சத்தைப்பெற அதை 9 கிலோ அளவுக்குச் சாப்பிட்டாக வேண்டும்.
முருங்கைக் கீரை-கறிவேப்பிலையில் வைட்டமின் ஏ சத்து நிறைந்துள்ளது. கேரட்டைக் காட்டிலும் முருங்கைக் கீரையில் பீட்டா கரோட்டின் சத்து அதிகம். எனவே உடல் நலத்துக்கு பாதுகாப்பானதா என்று அறியப்படாத "கோல்டன் அரிசி' போன்ற மரபணுப் பயிர்களை அவசர அவசரமாக சந்தைப்படுத்த முயற்சி செய்வது வேதனை அளிக்கிறது.
உலகெங்கும் நடந்த பல்வேறு ஆய்வுகளின் அடிப்படையில், உடல் எடை அதிகரிப்பதைத் தடுத்தல், நோய் எதிர்ப்பாற்றலை வளர விடாது செய்தல் போன்ற கேள்விகளை "கோல்டன் அரிசி' எழுப்பியுள்ள சூழலில், நமது அடிப்படை வாழ்வாதாரமான அரிசியில் இது போன்ற உத்திகளுக்கு இடம் அளிப்பது தவறு.
இதைத் தொடர்ந்து தில்லியில் உள்ள எங்களது கூட்டமைப்பைச் சேர்ந்தவர்கள் மூலம் பிரதமரிடம் மேலே குறிப்பிட்ட வைட்டமின் ஏ சத்து நிறைந்த முருங்கைக் கீரை, பப்பாளி உள்ளிட்டவற்றைப் பரிசாக அளிக்க முடிவு செய்துள்ளோம்.
இதுபோன்ற பாதுகாப்பற்ற உணவுப் பொருள்களை எதிர்க்கும் வகையில் "நான் சோதனை எலி அல்ல' என்று பொருள்படும் "ஐ ஆம் நோ லேப் ரேட்' இயக்கம் தமிழகத்தில் இந்த கூட்டமைப்பு மூலம் விரைவில் தொடங்கப்படும். சென்னை பெசன்ட் நகர் கடற்கரையில் வரும் 19-ம் தேதி சிறு தானியங்கள் மற்றும் இயற்கை உணவு விழிப்புணர்வு விழா நடத்தப்பட உள்ளது. கடந்த ஆண்டு பி.டி. கத்தரியைத் தமிழகத்திலும், பின் இந்தியாவிலும் நிறுத்தி வைக்க இந்தக் கூட்டமைப்பு போராடியது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது' என்று அவர்கள் தெரிவித்தனர்.
other press coverage links:
Times of India -
Deccan Chronicle -

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

The Hindu : News / National : Banned pesticides being used in India, admits Pawar

The Hindu : News / National : Banned pesticides being used in India, admits Pawar

Its a shame that the Agriculture Minister admits in the floor of the Parliament that the nation uses chemical pesticides banned elsewhere in the world without acknowledging why they are used and doesn't even talk of alternatives when queried as to why he is using it. He cites 4 'scientific' studies to justify his case a few months after the supposedly 'scientific' study on the GM was found to be of very poor scientific quality by his colleague and the rest of the nation.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Press Meet on the World Consumer Day, Chennai

Invitation to a Media Briefing by Experts & Activists on the issue of GM Foods, on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day 15th March 2011

Experts and activists of Safe Food Alliance* - Prof Sultan Ismail, Dr G Sivaraman and Ananthoo would be briefing the media about the latest developments related to Genetically Modified (GM) foods like Bt Brinjal and GM Maize in India, on March 15th 2011, World Consumer Rights Day. As you know, the entry of GM foods would violate the citizen's right to safe food, right to know and right to informed choices with regard to something as basic as Food AND THEREFORE, AN URGENT AND APT ISSUE IN THE CONTEXT OF CONSUMER RIGHTS.

Members of the Safe Food Alliance would be releasing their Charter of Demands to the Government of Tamil Nadu and to all political parties on this occasion and would also send a "novel, fitting response" to the Prime Minister's recent endorsement of GM foods like Golden Rice.

We request you to kindly send a senior representative from your esteemed media house and also send a photo-journalist to cover the event. Thank you.

When?: 15th March 2011, at 4.00 pm

Where?: Main hall ,Press Club, Chepauk, Govt estate, Chennai -02.

What?: Media Briefing on GM Foods on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day and release of charter of demands and a novel response to the PM on this issue

Safe Food Alliance (Selva- 9790951652 ; Ananthoo- 9444166779 ) 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Reject Bt Brinjal Dossier, Halt GM Trials, Enact Bio-Safety Laws in for TN State

Press Release: Safe Food Alliance, Chennai

Chennai, January 23, 2011: Pointing to the latest scientific evidence on Bt Brinjal that shows that this unnatural, novel food cannot be recommended for human consumption given the toxic results on rats fed with Bt Brinjal, food safety activists of Coalition for a GM-Free India wanted the Central Government to reject the Bt Brinjal dossier of the crop developer once and for all. “This latest analysis once again shows how undependable the Indian regulators are in the discharge of their responsibility – that of protecting India’s health and environment and Mr Jairam Ramesh was right in ensuring that Bt Brinjal was not allowed for commercial cultivation. Other analyses that emerged after the moratorium was placed by Mr Ramesh clearly show the inadequacy of safety assessment in the country, also reflecting upon how the regulators are not to be trusted. It is time that the entire Bt Brinjal dossier is rejected once and for all”, they said.

Ananthu, who travelled across India recently as part the Kisan Swaraj Yatra and a prominent member of Safe Food Alliance said that, “The need for the state government to reserve the right on GM crop decision-making including open air trials becomes clear once again with the latest analysis on Bt Brinjal. While it was good that on Bt Brinjal the state government was able to communicate its stand to the Centre, the push for Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) at the Centre clearly shows that state governments will not be allowed their constitutional right in the future with the enactment of such bills as BRAI and Seeds Bill. We urge the Tamilnadu government to enact a bio-safety legislation at the state level so that its constitutional right as well as responsibility in the matter is upheld. We will press for such a policy enactment being part of the manifesto of all parties during the coming Assembly elections and urge them to ban all GM trials in the State”.

The latest analysis on the bio-safety of Bt Brinjal was done by Dr Lou Gallagher, a toxicology and epidemiology expert from New Zealand on the behest of Aruna Rodrigues, the main petitioner of the Supreme Court PIL on GMOs. The main findings of Dr Gallagher’s report released recently show that the food safety studies for Bt Brinjal were not conducted in accordance with published standards, did not accurately summarize results and worse, ignored toxic endpoints for rats fed Bt Brinjal. In the studies conducted by Mahyco on rats with Bt Brinjal, the rats experienced organ and system damage (incl. of ovaries, spleen, white blood cells etc.) and toxic effects to the liver. Major health problems among test animals were ignored in these reports, points out Dr Gallagher. Dr Gallagher in her report says that “release of Bt Brinjal for human consumption cannot be recommended given the current evidence of toxicity to rats in just 90 days and the studies’ serious departures from normal scientific standards”.

“It is clear that regulators as well as scientists who are in a position to take decisions on behalf of all Indians are being unscientific and non-rigorous in their approach; they also have no long term vision for sustainable development. This is also demonstrated by the way the so-called “updated” inter-academy report on GM crops of six science academies in India was biased, inconsistent and did not choose to be scientific. This kind of regulatory and scientific establishment in India is bringing shame to this country. While farmers in this country are reeling under great distress in a scenario of rising costs due to intensive agriculture models and environmental resources are constantly getting degraded, it is immoral that no sound plans are being made to take Indian agriculture into the right direction which will secure income for Indian farmers, conserve their resources and produce adequate and safe food for all Indians”, said Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for a GM-Free India.

For more information, contact: Dr. Sivaraman, 9444027455 or Selvaganapathy, 9790951652 of Safe Food Alliance, Chennai and Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for a GM-Free India at 093-930-01550 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Meeting on 9th Jan 2011, KSY follow-up in Tamilnadu

Ananthoo of ReStore Chennai has been part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, travelling from Sabarmathi on the 2nd October, 2010 to Rajghat in December 2010. He has traversed through several states and met many organic farmers, sustainable agriculture initiatives and institutions.  

Safe Food Alliance, Chennai is organizing a meeting on the 9th, January, 2011 to felicitate Ananthoo, to listen to him share his experiences and also to make plans for promoting sustainable agriculture and safe food in the State for the year ahead. 

The meeting will be between 3-5 p.m. The venue for the meeting will be Ma Foi Centre, (2nd floor waiting hall), 309, Poonamallee High Road, Chennai. Directions to the venue: The building is close to Pachayappas College, on top of the Maruti car show room.