Dr Mangla Rai. Director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) made a statement a few days ago in Delhithat "Indiais not lagging behind in developing its versions of the genetically modified (GM) Golden Rice., "According to him large-scale field trials of Golden Rice will happen within a year. Golden Rice is being promoted to reduce vitamin A deficiency in our country.
The Organic Farming Association of India Orissa Chapter (OFAI-Orissa chapter) doest not see genetically engineered golden rice as a solution to vitamin A deficiency, rather a part of the problem and strongly opposes of open field trials of golden rice.
Genetic engineering is a biotechnology that allows the introduction of foreign genes into a genome. This technique is used to create gene combinations that would be impossible through natural processes like sexual reproduction - for example, introducing flounder genes into tomatoes, bacterial genes into corn, or even human genes into rice.
"Vitamin A rice / golden rice", developed to counter vitamin A deficiency in the populations of poor countries. This genetically-engineered rice produces beta-carotene in its endosperm, giving it the distinct yellow colour that affords it the name 'golden rice.' It was developed with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation and the European Commission.
A March, 2000, report by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) says Vitamin A deficiency rarely occurs in isolation. It is only one of a whole range of nutrients, the lack of which occurs within the context of poverty, environmental degradation and social disparity.
We fail to understand how by just providing only a single micronutrient vitamin-A via rice to a population which is deficient in a whole range of nutrients will help to enhance their nutrional standards.
The one-dimensional technical fix approach to Vitamin-A deficiency is a reminder of the Green Revolution paradigm. 'Golden rice' is being promoted as a universal solution to the problems of the poor decided upon and developed by scientists from the North. It comes as no great surprise that the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the main architects of the Green Revolution, has been financing this approach to solve a problem which it helped to create in the first place.
Supplementation and fortification programmes treat the symptoms but not the underlying cause of micronutrient malnutrition. Poor quality diets consisting primarily of staple foods are the underlying cause of micronutrient malnutrition. 'Golden rice' is merely an extension of the supplementation approach and also fails to address the cause. Even worse, it actually perpetuates malnutrition because it fails to address peoples' requirements of other minerals and vitamins, which would be met by adopting a balanced nutrition.
We are afraid that golden rice" as a solution to solve vitamin A problems in India, is being used as a strategy for corporate takeover of our rice production, using the involvement of the public sector as shield.
90% of small & marginal farmers are rice growers and rice being our staple food we can't achieve security when transnational corporations control our rice production .This will not help our farmers and / farming. We are also quite afraid that the large scale open air trial of GE Rice will contaminate our traditional varieties. This will remove our' choice to grow non-GE rice and allow the MNCs to take control of our food system.
There are many important sources of Vitamin A which are not expensive, does not need much care and are being & can be grown in our back yard .Among them a wide range of green leafy vegetables viz: drumstick leaves in particular provide a very rich and inexpensive source of pre-formed vitamin A, in addition to other important micronutrients. Scientific reports suggests a glassful of fresh drum stick leaves contains the daily requirement of vitamin A for up to ten people, or small amounts of less than 10 gm of fresh can meet the day's requirement of vitamin A of preschool children. Bathua, another important green leafy vegetable high in nutritional value and rich in vitamin A. The other leaves which are important sources of Vitamin A are cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, taro leaves. A few other vegetable crops rich in vitamin A are coriander leaves, amaranth, curry leaves, carrot, pumpkin, fenugreek leaves, radish leave, kundri, winged bean, cowpea and bitter gourd. Mango, papaya and jackfruit are the two fruits rich in vitamin A. So, there is a wide range of locally available rich sources of vitamin A available with us.
However, the contribution of crops especially drumstick leaves , curry leaves cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, taro leaves to alleviate Vitamin A deficiencies is greatly underappreciated by our policy makers .
The attempts by various extension services to promote "high value "market oriented crops have led to decreased diversity of species & varieties in home gardens.
We feel far more effective approach to treat vitamin A deficiency is to focus on the utilization of the food plant mentioned above which are being under utilized at the moment and many of them are fast disappearing in the fields.
Diversity is the basis of balanced nutrition. Agricultural and nutritional policies should promote the availability of micronutrient-rich foods .The higher the diversity of our crops, the better the uptake of vitamin A, as well as many other nutrients. Diversity combats malnutrition in general.
So, OFAI-Orissa chapter stands for NO GOLDEN RICE and will oppose any move for field trial of GE Rice.
on behalf of The Organic Farming Association of India Orissa Chapter
Living Farms ( a project of DRCSC, Kolkata )
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