India's health minister opposes GM crops
Kancheepuram, December 9 2008: Speaking at a public meeting of farmers from all over Tamil Nadu here this evening, the Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss expressed his opposition to GM crops and Bt Brinjal in particular.
"PMK has always opposed GM seeds. As a Minister of PMK and as the Union Health Minister, I will continue to oppose it. As far as the recent controversy of Bt Brinjal is concerned, it is being brought into the country without proper research on its safety. We should oppose it collectively. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare as a policy will ensure holistic research of Bt Brinjal, including (on) health impacts and farmers' issues. We will not permit it into India otherwise".
Earlier, members of Tamil Nadu Organic Agriculturists Movement, Tamil Nadu Women's Collective, Workers' & Peasants' Party and Greenpeace drew the attention of the Minister to the various concerns related to GM crops/foods and the farmers presented him with a memorandum.
The Minister, in his speech said, "When there are so many indigenous varieties of brinjal in each region of India, where is there a need to borrow this Bt Brinjal from other countries?".
The Health Minister's statement in this meeting is unsurprising given that PMK, his party, was the first political party to take a clear stand against GM crops in India. Further, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss is known for his progressive political stand on issues like tobacco and alcohol.
On December 4th, a group of doctors from different streams of medicinal systems sought to meet with the Health Minister to express their serious concerns with regard to GM foods. They submitted a memorandum to the Minister pointing out that Genetic Engineering in our food and farming is inherently risky and irreversible and that decision-making in India is currently happening based on the crop developer's data without any independent research for assessing long term effects.
The Minister has also been receiving thousands of faxes from all over the country as part of the "I Am No Lab Rat" campaign launched by the Coalition for a GM-Free India and Hamara Beej Abhiyan. So far, more than 70000 Indians have endorsed a petition to the Health Minister saying that they refuse to become guinea pigs in this experimentation with GE foods.
Consumer, environmental, women's and organic farming groups from all over the country reacted by thanking the Minister for the progressive view he took on this matter, with his scientific background and for putting the interests and health of ordinary consumers of India at the centre of his policy with regard to GM crops/foods.
For more information, contact:
Sadagopan, President of Tamizhaga Uzhavar Periakkam (PMK's farmers' wing) at (0) 94-432-91925
Jaikrishna of Greenpeace at (0) 98-455-91992 or Preethi at (0)99-014-88482