Thousands of farmers and their allies gathered in New Delhi from 20 states across India on Thursday to demand that multinational corporations that make genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 'Quit India.'
The reference to India's historic 'Quit India' civil disobedience movements for independence from Britain charged the thousands-strong day-long sit-in at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, followed by a large march to parliament demanding an end to dependence on GMO corporations.
Protesters handed an Indian flag made of organic, non-GMO cotton to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday to protest a new Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill to fast-track GMO clearance in a country already dominated by GMO corporate giants.
"We request the PM to hoist an organic, Indian cotton flag because it will be symbolic of seed sovereignty," declared Pankaj Bhushan, co-convener of GM-Free India Coalition, urging the prime minister not to fly the flag of U.S. multinationals that corner 93 percent of the country's cotton seed industry.
"It is a shame that cotton and khadi [a traditional cloth], the symbols of our fight for Independence, are today controlled by an American [multi-national corporation] because of our indifference and inaction," he added.
Protesters targeted the U.S. based multinational Monsanto, urging it to leave India in the footsteps of its abandonment last month of plans to spread GMOs in Europe.
Participants hailed from organizations including Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, National Federation of Indian Women, Right to Food campaign and Greenpeace India, The Times of India reports. A number of political parties were also numbered around the protesters, as the bill faces fierce opposition from within the government as well.
The BRAI bill is aimed at speeding approval of GM use in the country by creating a single clearance system empowered to steamroll state objections while lowering the safety bar. Critics charge it will seal the deal on India's dependency on big agribusiness—dominated by Western multinational corporations—devastating small farmers, deepening poverty and hunger, wreaking havoc on an ecosystem and eroding Indian sovereignty.
"Back then, it was the East India Company and now we have 'Eat India' Companies!" Saroj Mohanty of Paschim Odisha Krushak Samanvay Samiti declared. "We demand that these companies quit India and strongly urge the government of India to withdraw the BRAI Bill which has been brought in to facilitate the entry of GM crops, and stop the promotion of flawed and dangerous technologies like GMOs."