1,727 villages in Orissa declared GM free
Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security Press Release, New Delhi, Mar 26 2007
Seven hundred newly elected representatives of Panchayats in Orissa and the Governing Body members of Orissa Nari Samaj - a confederation of 53 block-level tribal women's organizations - resolved to protect nature, promote biodiversity, and also took an oath NOT to cultivate Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
The elected representatives declared 1,727 villages falling under 130 Panchayats in 12 districts as GM Free villages. These villages are in the districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nawarangpur, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Bolangir, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj in Orissa.
This brings the total number of villages in the country, which have decided to remain GM free, close to 1,900. These GM Free villages are located in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The oath in Orissa was taken at a conference organized by the Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development (THREAD) on "Model Panchayats in Orissa£ at Siddharth village, Khurda, near Bhubaneshwar on Mar 20. The State Election Commissioner, Shri Sanjib Chandra Hota was the chief guest at the conference and the Regional Coordinator of Institute for Social Studies Mr. K.K Pattnaik delivered the keynote address.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr G.John, Executive Director of 'Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development' (THREAD) informed that the Panchayat leaders have also sent memorandums to the Prime Minister of India and the state Chief Minister stating clearly that they will not cooperate with any activities of either the National Biodiversity Authority or the State Biodiversity Board unless control over local biodiversity and related knowledge is passed on to the communities. Demanding protection of local knowledge against piracy, they insisted that people's access to natural resources should be given priority over commercial trade.
The leaders expressed hope that their action will be emulated by other villages, which will force Orissa to turn into a GM-free state. They resolved to work towards community control over biodiversity, to preserve and protect biodiversity for the sake of food sovereignty. These leaders have already launched a movement against GM seeds in the tribal belt.
Orissa Nari Samaj had continuously been opposed to the entry of GM crop seeds since 2005. Decrying the seed company’s agenda to lay siege to poor farmer’s livelihood, it had earlier sent thousands of letters from 2,500 villages in 53 blocks to the Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) against the large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal. In its endeavour to make the people of the state aware of the hazards of GM crops as well as the advantages of organic food, THREAD has so far printed and distributed about 40,000 posters throughout the state stating the same. #
photograph caption: 700 elected Panchayat leaders and members of the Orissa Nari Samaj (ONS) taking oath for establishing model GM free Panchayats. These panchayats represent 1,727 villages in 12 districts of Orissa
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