Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ban the BT Brinjal - registering my protest against GM Brinjal!

Yesterday I received a message from Meghna.

I am lucky to have made friends with a lot of admirable women in the food industry, over the years. One such woman is Meghna. Meghna Raj has truly followed her passion. She studied environmental management, worked with NGOs, grew organic food and went on to open The Farm Cafe all to promote organic eating. She practices that she preaches even today. I found The Farm because of mutual friends and loved it! The place vibrated with positivity. Over time Meghna and I forged a friendship, often meeting to share thoughts, ideas and dreams frustrations and fallbacks. I watched The Farm struggle to take its first steps, grow confident enough to walk and then get set to fly (and lived vicariously through it all with Meghna). As I write I remember her hilarious anecdotes about convincing her kitchen staff to use brown rice, rock salt (without sodium) and raw sugar (sans sulphur) which they believed were not good enough besides bein hearder to cook with. Unfortunately The Farm never got a chance to fly. An evil monster could not watch it thrive and struck it down. I have always been inspired by Meghna for her passion (perhaps because I find it is a mirror of mine) so I was thankful to receive this mail from her.

You see the BT Brinjal has been on my mind for a while, ever since I read an article on it. Curious I talked to my friends Latha and Reetha at Navdanya about it and learned more. But it remained there, because I did not know what to do about it. But I did know then and have grown even more convinced of the fact since, that I love Brinjal, and I do not want a GM version of it; not just because I do not want to ingest that cocktail of untested chemicals it will carry but also because I do not want the culinary diversity of the Brinjal to be annihilated because of the GM BT Brinjal.

Often things happen because we remain silent, but I plan on being heard on this. I plan on adding my voice to all those out there to protest the BT Brinjal and celebrate the organic Brinjal in all its forms and flavours. I will share how I plan to do this soon but in the meanwhile I will leave you with Meghna’s email so you may take your stand and spread the word.

“Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all well and getting along fabulously in the new year and those new year resolutions are still alive and kicking :0)I always try not to be preachy about the topic of organic food. I realize just because it is my passion, it doesn’t have to interest everyone. However, there are certain developments which I feel you should be aware of, regarding what is happening to our food supply at the political level. I would be truly grateful if you could take 5 minutes to read through this message completely, as it affects absolutely everybody.Right now, as I type, the Government of India is getting ready to allow Genetically Modified foods into our market- the first of its kind in India called Bt Brinjal (see the Photo Album named “Bt Brinjal Public Consultation in my profile or see The Farm Cafe pictures. Am also attaching some pics of the Public Consultation on the 19th of January in Ahmedabad with Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh)

•What is Bt Brinjal?
Bt Brinjal is a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into brinjal. This is said to give the plant resistance against insects like the brinjal fruit and shoot borer.

•What does that mean in plain terms?This Brinjal will be different from anything we (or anyone else in the world) has ever eaten. Genes from other organism will be fused with the gene of the brinjal seed. Whatever the reason maybe (e.g. giving the plant more resistence from insects which attack it), the fact remains that we will be directly consuming a plant with a manipulated genetic structure, mixed with genes of other creatures, with no long term testing for its impact on human health.

•Am I and others who are against this, against development and technology?Certainly not. We are against the fact that this technology has not even completed half the required testing to deem it safe, and neither are its long term consequences known. Most of the European countries have banned GM food.

•Why is it wrong?-It has not been tested by any independent, objective body, except the companies selling them (Mahyco and Monsanto)-GM foods existing currently (in North and South America) are being used for cattle feed and as additives in processed foods. It has never been done on vegetables before, and we are the first country on whom this will be tried. We will be a fine set of lab rats.

-There will be no labeling. So if you want to choose not to buy it, no such choice will be available to you. You will not be able to tell whether the brinjal you will eat is GM or not.

-Most pro-GM arguments are from the supply side, regarding how much better it will be for the farmer to grow it. What about the fact that we all will be eating this food, with no knowledge of what it will do to our bodies?

•What can you do?
-Read up on the issue-
-Look up the documentary “Poison on the Platter” directed by Mahesh Bhatt.
- Make up your mind on your stand.-Write about this (e.g. letters to the editor, local publications, write to the minister Jairam Ramesh at –he actually reads all his mail), BLOG about it...
-Just be aware. When one is aware, things have a way of getting to the right sources, (e.g. through conversations over coffees, meetings, chats, telling others intentionally, starting discussions in schools and colleges, etc.)-Regardless of who makes these decisions and who takes interest or not- we all share the same destiny on this planet. It is like the stock market index. The more actions supporting sustainable living practices, the index goes up. The more actions without direction towards minimizing our negative impact on this earth, the index goes down. Be aware and take a stand. Be interested. I promise you it will not be boring or a waste of your time.

Warm Regards,Meghna.”

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