Agro-biodiversity Conservation vs Genetic Modification!

Why Agro-biodiversity?

We are in a world where we have a day for everything, water day, environment day and agro-biodiversity day. Ironically these are the same things that we are trying our level best to destroy. May 22 was International Day for Biological Diversity. At this point in human history, we produce more food per capita than we have ever done but depend on less diversity of crops. Most food produced in the world depends on wheat, rice, corn, soybeans and palm oil.  Today we are told that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used extensively and genetically modified seeds are essential in food production to ensure that 9 billion people have enough food to eat.

However, the reality is that we produce enough food for all. But we don’t use the wide diversity of crops and plants we have. Instead, we are narrowing the choice of plants we use for growing food. This is the bigger threat to our food security than absolute quantity produced.              ( Rajamudi rice, once upon a time a favorite of the Wodeyar kings has been revived by farmers of the Save Our Rice Campaign )

Rajamudi Rice - A glimpse of agro-biodiversity
Rajamudi Rice, once a favorite of Karnataka’s Wodeyar Kings

Genetic Modification is NOT the solution

UN and many civil society groups are urging countries and farmers to go organic, preserve biodiversity, produce safe, healthy food that will nourish people and heal the planet, soils, and water. However, our agriculture establishment and government are going in the opposite direction. They want pesticides and genetically modified foods in our farms and food. In 2010 Bt brinjal was supposed to be introduced in India, however, it was stopped due to strong opposition from the public, independent scientists, and objections from farmers. Now the government has taken steps to introduce genetically modified (GM) mustard into our farms and food.

The biotechnology regulator has already recommended that this mustard be allowed for commercial cultivation. The matter is pending with the Minister for Environment & Forests. If the Minister approves GM mustard it will be the first GM food crop to be introduced into our farms. This GM mustard is engineered with 3 alien genes to improve its ease of hybridization. If these genes spread they could contaminate other mustard varieties & destroy our biodiversity in addition to the other problems.

(Sarson Satyagraha, a movement by the people to keep  food and farms in India free of GM Mustard. For more information check the Fb page GM Watch India and follow the issue and act!)

Sarson Satyagraha
Sarson Satyagraha, a people’s movement to keep India’s food and farms free of GM Mustard

GM Foods have entered our Homes 

For those of us who think that we are not eating any GM foods, I must disappoint you. Imported foods with corn, soybean, and canola are from GM crops. In fact even baby food will have GM ingredients. Also, cottonseed oil which is by itself a popular edible oil comes from Bt cotton (as 96% of our cotton is genetically modified). Cottonseed oil is also extensively used for blending in almost all refined oils. Why are these in our food without our knowledge? Because we have on paper a labelling law which is not being implemented. The same will be the case with GM mustard; it will come to our plates and farms unlabelled, stealthily….

So if you are worried check out this petition.

Way Ahead

With climate change having arrived (nobody who experienced the drought this year will question it) what we need is conservation of agro-biodiversity and propagation of indigenous climate-resilient varieties – such as traditional rice varieties. This will happen if we resolve to eat agro-biodiversity, experiment with native foods which are climate-friendly and adopt eating local and seasonal foods.

Devi, Bio Basics

... and spread the good word!

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