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Dinner is served

Genetically modified (GM) foods and plants might soon find their way on to your dinner plate if the 2011 BRAI Bill is passed, say the organisers of a recent campaign led by Greenpeace. Tomorrow, 50 chefs will join the protest in new delhi by attempting to cook the world's largest baingan bharta made with non-GM veggies

Come Tuesday, New Delhi's famous craft bazaar located in the heart of the city, Dilli Haat, will become the site for a new world record, as 50 chefs attempt to cook the largest serving of bharta made from vegetables that have not been genetically modified.



The record is part of a month-long campaign to dissuade the Prime Minister from passing the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, 2011, which, if passed, will eventually allow for genetically modified crops in the country.

"There is no clause for the long-term assessment of the effects of genetically modified crops in the bill. There is a lack of transparency, as the government has the right to overrule Right To Information (RTI) applications on the issue," explains Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India.

He adds, "The issue of genetically modified (GM) goods will also come under the ambit of the Science and Technology Ministry's Biotechnology Department. There's a conflict of interest there, as the department promotes the same technology."

Ongoing campaign
While the world record was conceptualised only a few months ago, Greenpeace has been campaigning for over a decade about the harmful effects of GM seeds.

"If the bill is passed, we will no longer be able to enjoy GM-free bhartas. This is your last chance," says Rajesh, adding, "Our aim is to get 1,00,000 names for the online petition. Since we have crossed the 94,000 mark, we are optimistic of making it."

The next step for the campaigners is to source around 600 kilos of brinjals and tomatoes, besides other ingredients for the bharta, which will be prepared by chefs from the Indian Culinary Forum and Le M �ridien,
New Delhi.

Post the world record, Greenpeace has sought an appointment with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to explain their stance to him. Singh will also be presented with a serving of the bharta, of which a significant portion will be distributed to local NGOs and orphanages in the city.

According to Kavita Mukhi, eco-nutritionist and initiator of the Farmer's Market in Mumbai, the issue has been taken too lightly for too long.

"If we don't take such action, we will be a dead nation in the future. Forget corruption, food is a basic need. GM seeds are an attempt to enslave us, as in the long-term there will be no fresh seeds left."

What is the BRAI Bill, 2011, all about?
The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, 2011, is soon to be tabled in Parliament. If it is cleared, it will pave the way for an autonomous regulatory body that will act as a 'single clearance window' facilitating the entry of GM seeds in India through multinational companies. Since these seeds are patented, it creates the issue of monopoly as the body is vested with sole authority and can restrict variety in crops. Though GM seeds have better resistance to pests and boost yield, activists say the effects are temporary, and harmful in the long run, citing the example of BT cotton leading to farmer suicides when crops failed. Activists also argue that there isn't sufficient research on the long-term effects of consuming GM food on humans.

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