Several activists arrived in Delhi from Gujarat on Friday and joined protestors from some 20 other Indian states to demonstrate against the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2013.
Thousands of citizens came together at Jantar Mantar for a day-long sit-in and marched towards parliament to demand that companies dealing in genetically modified (GM) crops including Monsanto must quit India. They have also demanded withdrawal of the BRAI Bill, 2013.
The bill has been facing strong opposition inside and outside parliament as it would facilitate the entry of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into agriculture and the environment.
The bill proposes to set up a centralised single window clearance system, which activists say is designed to lower the bar for GM crop approvals with no independent long-term safety assessments or even assessment of a particular GM product.
The bill has also received flak from Right to Information (RTI) groups as it proposes to override the RTI Act. The bill is now under the review of the parliamentary standing committee.
The activists on Friday gifted an Indian flag made out of organic fabric, not produced from Monsanto's Bt cotton seed, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to unfurl this non-Monsanto, non-Bt cotton flag on Independence day, 15 August.
Earlier, Badri Joshi, secretary of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, who headed a team from Bharuch, termed the BRAI as a bill aimed to protect the interest of companies like Monsanto.
He had alleged that GM crops were a means to enslave Indian farmers. ''It will make them permanently dependent (for seeds) on companies dealing in GM crops,'' he alleged.
Manoj Solanki, another activist from the state, said that GM crops had implications on health, environment and independence of the country.
The protest at Parliament Street comes at a time when the union government introduced the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013 in Parliament in the last (budget) session.