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Bhopal to Bt

by Upasana Mehta
Diverse Women for Diversity

(July 10, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- Three thousand people were sacrificed to the altar of pesticides in 1984. Till today, the Bhopal victims have received no justice. The Bhopal victims are currently in Delhi on a Satyagraha in their search for justice.

Now, 18 years later, the same companies that created pesticides and Bhopal, are bringing us new hazards in the form of genetically engineered seeds and crops. The biotechnology industry, which has grown out of the chemical and pesticide industry, has gone out of its way to project itself as the anti-pesticide alternative. However, genetic engineering industry is the pesticide industry, is the pharmaceutical industry. Roundup Resistant Crops are genetically manipulated seeds that help Monsanto sell more pesticide/herbicide. Bt Crops have been genetically manipulated to produce pesticides in every part of the plant all the time.

Genetic engineering threatens to create genetic Bhopals through genetic pollution and transfer of toxin genes into related crops thus destroying our rich biodiversity. The government's asking small farmers to set aside 20 percent of their land in non- Bt cotton is, in fact, an admission of the risks of genetic pollution. In addition, it is also a recognition of the fact that Bt Cotton will not control the bollworm sustainably; there will be emergence of resistance, creation of super pests and hence increased use of pesticides. Genetic engineering thus portends new genetic and chemical Bhopals.

These hazards are totally unnecessary. Pests can be controlled without genetic engineering or chemicals. In fact, the recent USDA report from the country with the longest experience and the largest planting in GM crops has admitted that there are no ecological or economic benefits from genetically engineered crops planted in the US. The Chinese Environment Ministry study has clearly shown the ecological risks of BT Cotton. The spread of superweeds in the Canadian prairies is proof that genetic engineering cannot control weeds or pests, but instead makes them more virulent, demanding increased dependence on hazardous chemicals.

In spite of knowing the hazards, the government has given clearance to Monsanto for genetically engineered crops without putting in place any independent monitoring system or systems of liability and corporate accountability. The Bhopal disaster and the continuing injustice to the victims has shown that the collusion of government and corporate crime not only fails to guarantee safety to citizens but fails to provide justice in the context of hazards.

A July 6 meeting in New Delhi about the hazards of genetic engineering included victims of the Bhopal disaster, the organic agriculture movement, national farmers' organisations, the environment movement, the public interest science movement and the public interest law movement came together to stop new Bhopals and to get justice for the victims of the biggest pesticide disaster in the world.

Upasana Mehta
Diverse Women for Diversity
A- 60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi- 16
Tel: 91 11 6561868, 6853772
Fax: 91 11 6562093