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Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Food
A book on the proceedings of a two day seminar held at Hyderabad, July 2-3, 2001
About this book

A year ago, in July 2001, when the two day seminar on Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Food was held at Hyderabad, there was a sense of euphoria that we had succeeded in fighting back the manipulative forces of corporate markets and transnationals, trying to capture the huge agricultural market in India. The spirited campaign against Bt Cotton had succeeded in putting off the approval. There was new hope in the air.

A year later, in December 2002, the hope appears to have evaporated, giving way to a sense of despair. Bt Cotton has made its debut on Indian soils. Starting with 10,000 hectares of clandestine planting in Gujarat, to thousands of acres of officially permitted plantings across the country; Bt Cotton has opened the doors wide for the entry of more GM crops. The sharp outlines of the shadow of GM Mustard from inside these wide open doors have heightened the fears of the inevitability of the GM regime in Indian agriculture. The corporate scientists are portending more. Golden Rice, they say, will wipe out the last of the night blindness from the Vitamin A starved Indian population. The recipe for despair is complete.

But it is precisely at this time that we must read this small publication brought out by the Deccan Development Society in collaboration with the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity and the Centre of World Solidarity, and understand what Dr Shiv Viswanathan terms as the politics of fear. Many thinkers who have articulated their brilliant views in this book repeatedly tell us that it is the democratisation of the content of science, a democratic imagination, that will deliver us from the fear of GM. They argue that it is not the pollen flow that is the issue; the issue is one of thorough civilisational and psychoanalytical analysis of the politics of GM foods. They call for ethical, social and political debate, which embodies common or moral sense.

They call for a change in our value systems.

Most of them refuse to see GM as a challenge of science. They see it as an expression of corporate greed and subordination of national sovereignties to global trade. Some of them offer vibrant alternatives. These alternatives are sought in the revival of self-knowledge or of taking responsibility for our lives. It is this rich argument that pervades the pages of this book that will help a million minds escape the current sense of doom, and look for new ways of countering GM politics. And bring back sanity into our agricultural policies and politics by liberating it from corporations and their colonising psyche.

That a book like Genetic Engineering, Agriculture and Food is coming out at the same time as when the Life Industry is threatening to swamp India, is very significant. It signifies the enormous gulf that has separated people and their rulers in this supposedly democratic nation. That decisions of this nature are taken without an iota of public debate, points to the total bankruptcy of the political elite in this country.

I am grateful to Dr Shiv Viswanathan, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Michel Pimbert, Devinder Sharma, Dr Ramanjaneyaloo, Dr M S Chari, Michael Hart, Carine Pionetti and Venkat, who through their contributions to this publication, have enriched our understanding of the GM issues. Mr M V Sastri, Dr Rukmini Rao and Prof. Aurora, who not only chaired individual sessions in the seminar, but also helped with the entire process, deserve special thanks.