BANGALORE, India - "Genetic modification of food crops can be disastrous."
The victims, for a change, were not farmers, but vegetables, hordes of tomatoes, corn, potatoes, brinjals and lady's fingers. Committing "mass suicide", the vegetables had left a "suicide note" against the Government's imminent decision to approve large-scale open air field trials for genetically modified (GM) food crops.
The symbolic suicide was followed by a "funeral". Greenpeace activists carried the "dead body" of a "martyr corn" in a hearse from the Mahatma Gandhi statue to a supermarket on M.G. Road. The activists then gathered to distribute the "Sabji Times," the vegetable bulletin that chronicled the disaster. "The approval of the field trials would mean that our food is one step closer to being dangerously unsafe. The health of citizens and the environment of this country are at risk," said Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner from Greenpeace.
She says: "We have recorded cross pollination, genetic contamination and even mixing up of GM test crops over the past few years and demanded that regulatory procedures be overhauled. We have weak and poor laws and even worse implementation, and the open air field trials, if permitted, is likely to end up in the plates of unsuspecting consumers." Last year, Indian agricultural exporters had opposed the field trials of GM rice because consumers in Europe and the West Asia rejected GM food for safety reasons. The rationale behind the symbolic vegetable suicide was clear.
As Ms. Raghunandan put it: "Consumers in India do not have to be passive guinea pigs in this large-scale experimentation taking place at their expense. We have a right to choose what we eat and must demand from our Government and food corporations an emphatic statement that our favorite brands are free of GM contamination."
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