28 March 2011

Indian consumers voice concerns over GM food

What with cricket, scams and forthcoming state elections ruling the headlines, the debate over introducing genetically-modified (GM) food/crops in India is almost forgotten. Is that a good thing? Depends on which side you’re on.

If you’re in favour of introducing GM food/crops in India, then, perhaps, a quiet entry while no one is looking is the best strategy to adopt. However, if you’re a concerned citizen, worried about your own and your children’s future, then, perhaps, the entry of GM food/crops in India and their proliferation in the Indian consumer market can be a scary proposition.

That’s possibly one reason why, two weeks ago, on World Consumer Rights Day (15 March 2011), a group of concerned citizens met in Mumbai to open up the debate over the possible introduction of GM food/crops in India and the quick and quiet passing of the proposed BRAI (Biotechnology and Regulatory Authority of India) Bill.

[BRAI is expected to act as the sole agency responsible for the regulatory system, including research, transport, import, manufacture and the use of GM crops in India.]

The meeting was organised by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, with over 22,000 members, and the Alliance of Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), an alliance of over 300 farmer and consumer organisations from across India. Their proposition: the government must encourage public hearings prior to the passing of the BRAI Bill and the introduction of GM foods in India.

Some important questions were raised at the meeting: Is GM food safe for human and livestock consumption? Will farmer interests be safeguarded once GM seeds are introduced in India? Will consumers have easy access to information on GM foods offered to them and be able to exercise their right to refuse GM food in favour of natural/organic food? Is the Indian government ensuring that Indian citizens are kept informed of the risks of GM food/crops?

And, most importantly, is the Indian government trying to evade consumer concern for, and opposition to, GM food/crops by passing the BRAI Bill quietly?

1 comment:

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