This is a heartfelt repsonse from the Indian food and policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, to the recent, and now aborted, AgBioWorld appeal to make five million pounds of Aventis GM rice available to the hungry.
CS Prakash at AgBioWorld has now withdrawn his petition [petition details at: http://www.agbioworld.org/aventispetition.html] which asked Aventis not to landfill about 5 million pounds of GM rice but to donate it instead for "humanitarian relief". It had been claimed that Aventis were only dumping the food for fear of litigation from biotech opponents whereas, in fact, the GM rice in question has not received EPA approval and landfill is a normal procedure in these circumstances.
Devinder Sharma is now launching his own much more far-reaching Appeal, and challenging the likes of Aventis and those supporting the AgBioWorld petition to go beyond PR gestures, that are irrelevant to the real problem, and actually do something practical to help the hungry.
Devinder is asking them to join the efforts that the New Delhi-based Ecological Foundation intend to make in India to make available the vast quantities of food that are being grown there but which are just not reaching the hungry.
A GLOBAL APPEAL TO HELP DISTRIBUTE 40 MILLION TONNES OF SURPLUS FOOD IN INDIA A TO 360 MILLION HUNGRY INDIANS
I am rather amused to read that hundreds of people signed an AgBioWorld Foundation petition appealing to Aventis CropScience to donate 5 million pounds of genetically-engineered experimental rice to the needy rather than destroy it. And at the same time, I am glad to know that the appeal did not motivate the EPA to listen to the mischievous proposal in the name of "humanitarian intentions".
Aventis has expressed concern about the hungry in the world, stating that it is "working hard to ensure that US farmers can grow abundant, nutritious crops and we hope that by contributing to that abundance all mankind will prosper". And the AgBioWorld Foundation, at the same time conveys its "disapproval of those who, in the past, have used situations similar to this one to block APPROVED food aid to victims of cyclones, floods and other disasters in order to further their own political (namely, anti-biotechnology) agendas."
I do not have to go into the reasons why AgBioWorld Foundation feels agitated over the actions of those "who block APPROVED food aid to victims of cyclones, floods and other disasters." The world knows that there is a strong lobby of scientists who are blind to the real cause behind the growing hunger. Their only interest is to ensure that some private companies can make increasing profits in the name of hunger and starvation. And to ensure that the corporatisation of agriculture, ably assisted by an unsound science - biotechnology, helps in further marginalising millions of farmers in the developing countries. Aventis, Syngenta, Monsanto, and Cargill's are to be world's food-givers. And everyone in the majority world must queue up before them with a begging bowl. Isn't this similar to what Shylock used to do in William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice? Remember, Shylock first lends and then looks for an opportunity to extract his "pound of flesh?"
Well, if the AgBioWorld Foundation and Aventis are IN REALITY keen to eradicate hunger, please join the efforts that we intend to make in India to make available food to those who cannot afford it. It is my appeal, on behalf of the New Delhi-based Ecological Foundation, to all those who feel moved by the pictures of malnourished people on the television screens, to all those who feel agitated over the growing disaparities leading to hunger and dispair, to come forward, be a partcipant, and contribute to eradicate the cause of hunger and malnutrition. Together we can make a difference.
If your heart bleeds at the millions who die of starvation and hunger, here is an opportunity to do your little bit. And I am not talking of just five million pounds (or about two and half million kilos) for the sake of public relations and propaganda. I am talking of 40 MILLION TONNES of foodgrains that is lying surplus in India!
More than 40 MILLION TONNES of foodgrains (in addition to the requirement of about 20 million tonnes for the food buffer) are stock piled in the open. This, when the government figures itself declare that out of the 360 million people officially living below the poverty line, as many as fifty million are victims of starvation. It is an ironic illustration of that cliche, a problem of plenty. While surplus food stocks rot in the open, thousands die of starvation and hunger. And as if this is not enough, the government has allowed the sale of foodgrains at a throwaway price to traders and merchants for export when people in the country are waiting endlessly for two square meals a day!
The IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, which lead the modern-day Shylocks, have instead asked the Indian government to redefine the 'beneficiaries" of the publicly-funded distribution system. As a result, the government has excluded millions of people, earning more than Indian Rs1,500 (US $ 40) a month, from purchasing subsidised foodgrains. The situation is such that in Dharvi, Asia's largest slum in the heart of Mumbai, only 150 families have been classified as living below the poverty line!
With the Indian government refusing to provide food to the needy and helpless, and with the IMF, World Bank and the WTO asserting that the hungry be left at the mercy of the market forces, there is no hope for these millions. These are not the children of a lesser god. They too are made of the same blood and flesh as you and me. They too need food to eat, to survive and to live in this wonderful planet. They DO NOT need your sympathies. They DO NOT need genetically modified food that you and me are not willing to accept as part of our daily diet. They need the normal food which is being eaten away by rats and insect pests. They need the foodgrains that is being damaged by rain and moisture. They need the food that has been, essentially, grown by them but which they cannot afford to buy.
Let us together make that abundant food that is being left to rot available to these hapless millions. They need your support and not your publicity stints. They don't need your signatures for an appeal to the Indian government. They need you to come forward and make that dream possible.
Here is an humanitarian opportunity for the AgBioWorld Foundations and the Aventis CropSciences of the world to demonstrate their REAL concern for the poor and hungry. Every contribution that you make to the Ecological Foundation will be used for MAKING FOOD AVAILABLE to the hungry millions. And believe me, the food that lies openly stacked in India is not genetically manipulated. It is fit for human consumption.
In the name of the poor and hungry,