Dear Jonathan

I am writing this from a seminar on GM Crops and Biodiversity being held in Trivandrum, the capital of the South Indian state of Kerala, the most literate [100% literacy] and the most progressive state of India.

In the most significant statement I have heard from any senior politician in India, Mr Achutanandan, Chief Minister of Kerala, today said that his 'government will not entertain any policy that will give a death blow to the farmer and the environment of the State through the unsubstantiated claim to produce more with the technique of genetic engineering'.

We are aware of all reports on GE, from across the globe, both for and against it, the Chief Minister said and recalled that earlier under the slogan of Grow More Food, during the Green Revolution regime, 'we violated the age old principles of farming in this country. The environment problem created by Green Revolution was a disaster'.

'I want to make it clear that this government will not entertain any policy that will give a death blow to the farmer and the environment of the state based on unsubstantiated claims of higher production with the latest technique of GE. We are aware of all reports on GE from all across the world, both far and against but we will not buy any hype'

'When the Government of India wanted to have a GE trial in Palakkad [one of the districts of Kerala], our governmentt protested strongly and prevented it from happening. This policy of my government has not changed and will not a change as long as we suspect the smallest of adversary effect on our agriculture through Genetic Engineering.

The MNCs in agriculture and marketing are working hard to tie down our farmers to contract farming. GE is another threat to farmers' right to choose what they want to sow in their field. Our scientists have aresponsibility to help farmers to work on their traditional technology which is pro ecology, environment and biodiversity. Scientists are accountable to the people of this country. Social acceptability is the most important issue of any technology.

The Agriculture Production Commissioner of Kerala Mr Jayakumar said that when GE comes up with the magic slogan of enhancing production, farmers are lured by it. Similarly when GE comes up with the claim that their product will prevent pests, farmers are irresistibly tempted by it. This is a trap that farmers fall into.

Until environmental discourse entered the developmental discourse, we were also totally unaware of this dimension of the problem. Most of our initiatives were myopic and had only short term focus forgetting the long term impacts. This very same paradox confronts farmers when they are offered GE seeds. In the long term the food sovereignty of the country is compromised, biodiversity will be eroded and only one type of seed controlled by a MNC is available. This is a moral, ethical and environmental disaster waiting to happen.

p v satheesh