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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Farmers rally against GM crops
Jose Bove in Bangalore
French anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove spoke at the rally
Thousands of farmers and environmental activists have rallied in the southern Indian city of Bangalore to protest against the development of genetically-modified crops.

More than 50 demonstrators were arrested as they held protests against a meeting, organised by the Asia Pacific Seed Association, to discuss the use of GM seeds.

The activists say they want to stop foreign multinational companies selling the seeds in Asian markets.

They have been backed by international environmental groups and farmers from other nations who say concern is growing worldwide about the ethics and effects of GM foods.

Moratorium

On Monday, farmers from across India issued a demand for a 10-year moratorium on trials of GM seeds.

The call was made by a tribunal representing more than 25 farmers groups meeting in Bangalore, in the southern state of Karnataka.


Strict punishment should be awarded to persons who are involved in the trade and distribution of spurious agri-chemicals

Indian farmers tribunal
Small-scale trials of GM crops began in India in 1998 and have met with stiff resistance from environmental campaigners and several non-governmental organisations.

The meeting was attended by several international delegates including the French anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove.

Mr Bove told delegates: "This is for the first time probably, I see farmers from all over the world coming together and discussing together to defend their own seeds."

The meeting heard harrowing accounts of farmers who had committed suicide because of crop failures allegedly caused by genetically modified seeds and fake pesticides.


The tribunal demanded those responsible be made accountable.

"Strict punishment should be awarded to persons who are involved in the trade and distribution of spurious agri-chemicals", it said.

The leading Indian environmentalist, Vandana Shiva, told the farmers that GM seeds had ruined India's traditional seed varieties and reduced yields.

Last July the government cleared the way for a Bombay-based company, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), to begin planting a form of pest-resistant cotton.

The Indian Government says it sympathises with public concern about genetically modified crops and food, but that it also recognizes the significance of genetic engineering.

It also says it has set the highest safety standards in the GM trials to ensure environmental protection.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Rice code boosts GM prospects
18 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
GM wheat 'could aid Third World'
01 Jun 99 | South Asia
Row over hybrid crops
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