I maintain a small roof garden exclusively for growing vegetables. Their value increases day by day, thanks the Manmohanji. Margazhi (Dhanur) and Thai months i.e roughly from Dec 16 to Feb 15, are particularly good period for the garden. All plants will have new and fresh look. Some photographs of harvest between 26 Dec 2010 and 2 Jan 2011
Note: All pictures here are brinjals produced in my small roof garden.
So they are
Born on Terrace Brinjal (BT Brinjal) and not Bt brinjal
மாடி கத்திரி பிடி கத்திரி அல்ல
There is an intense debate going on about BT Brinjal. The government has temporarily postponed decision making. I am totally against any Genetically Modified Food. There are many reasons foremost being GM is not required for food – we do not have any crisis situation to warrant newer technique of food production.
For the past 2 or 3 months enough debates have taken place across the country. One thing I am happy about is the intensity of anti-BT feeling openly expressed. I think our democracy is showing maturity. I will try to summarise what I gather out of the debates and add my own thoughts to it.
1.Effect of GM food consumption on human beings is not properly studied, especially its long term effect.
I totally agree with this. The tests whatever little done seems to be for short duration, mostly on rodents. I doubt the sincerity of Scientists in this. Today science is propelled,pushed,punished by corporate greed than by scientific spirit. A case I am familiar with is drug nemulide. I remember our hospital had quite good inventory. Suddenly it is banned and all the stock had to be destroyed. If science is so perfect, sincere why should this happen? Infact the drug was in use for more than 5 years. The problem is actually not with science but by corporates. They have this ‘quarter’ problem. Under pressure to show profit they rush. Now consider the problems that may occur due to consumption of bt brinjal.
- Brinjal is a common household food, as far as I know uniquely Indian. Mostly low economic level Indians consume. It is now a fashion among Economically-well-to-do Indians to ape western food habits- which doesn’t find much use of brinjal in its cuisine.
- Most Indians do not have proper medicare.
- Brinjal consumption will be low, continuous and for long time so any effect will manifest after long period
- Combining above two facts leads to dreadful situation. Exact impact of bt brinjal will never been known unless it leads to mass death.
- If a drug after several rounds of testing can be found to have adverse effect and withdrawn how to trust Bt Brinjal? It is important to note that drugs are administered under medical care, even then it took more than 5 years to discover problem.
2.Bt brinjal is one among many varieties, so what is the problem? If you don’t like don’t eat it. Thats how many proponets argue.
- I totally disagree with it. Outwardly it appears as though we have choice in choosing, in reality it is not. Here are the situations that is not possible
- Eating in a hotel/restaurant/hostel etc
- Eating in marriage and other functions
- Eating at friends/relatives house
The above 3 places themselves may account for more than 10% of our food consumption and for many it may 100%. Like Veg/Non-Veg hotel we may have to open GM/Non-GM hotels.
Also GM labels are not yet mandatory in India.
3.How to feed 1 billion people without new technology?
- Vow, you should see the faces of scientists, Managers and others in the proponents group when they raise the question. Let me switch to tamil for a short duration
வாடிய பயிரை கண்ட போதெல்லாம் வாடினேன் எண்று வள்ளலார் போல் பேசுவார்கள். உண்மையில் - உள் ஒன்று வைத்து புறம் ஒன்று பேசுவார்கள்.
The picture they paint is one of doom – as though entire Indian population will be wiped out in few years time.
Today nobody is starving in India due to shortage. Any starvation is due to high artificial cost of food items – certainly not shortage.
If there is a food shortage then why
- Government is creating SEZ on fertile agricultural land?
- agriculture is not profitable – after all shortages should lead to manufacturer/sellers market?
- tea, coffee and other cash crops are grown on enormously fertile land- not vegetables,fruits and other staple food items?
- vegetables and other perishables are wasted due to lack of price and transport?
- millets and other dry land crops are NOT encouraged – after all nutrientwise they are better than polished rice?
- thousands of acres of lands are lying untilised?
- national highways/state highways cut fruit bearing trees throughout length and breadth of country – replacing them with useless ornamental plants?
- entire urban areas are becoming devoid of any fruit bearing trees like coconut,mango etc.?
- polishing rice is permitted thus
- robbing it of its nutrients,
- causing diabetes
- causing 8-10 percent loss of its top layers
- Even assuming that there is a shortage of food production what caused it and what are the remedies?
The food production is declining due to law of diminishing returns – of excessive use of fertiliser and pesticides.
The use of fertiliser and pesticides increase the cost and thus make it unaffordable to many.
Blind adherence to economy of production on per season basis leading to ignoring lot of traditional crops like millets
Excessive emphasis on rice,wheat and sugarcane.
Use of pesticides/insecticides etc have lead barrenness of land by killing micro organisms, earthworms etc.
Way to go is natural farming and pest control methods.
Emphasis on millets and other traditional crops
Adoption of better techniques like ‘System Rice Intensification’ செம்மை நெல் சாகுபடி kind of things
(Interesting facts about this method are : Increases production by 10-20%, with lower inputs,. It is not discovered by any Research Institutes,Corportates but by a humble farmer in Madagascar. There are some references to such methods practiced during early 20th Century are also available. Ten percent increase with existing acerage is an enourmous benefit for countries like India)
Plant of fruit bearing trees along thousand of kilometers of roads.
Urban home/rooftop gardening for vegetable production.
Increased research on dry-land improvement, devising newer techniques for cultivation.
Increased adoption drip and other methods of irrigation
All the food products-specially vegetables provide us with nutrients. What is important is nutritonal content and not its weight. Thus eating few dry fruits provides better energy than eating whole watermelon/pumpkin.(after-all dry fruits are favourite items of terrorist as we saw during pakistani terrorist attack on us). In my humble observation all the scientifically developed varieties be it hybrid or GM emphasis is on weight, look, long freshness etc. I haven’t heard anywhere scientist claiming that a particular variety is more nutritious than naturally occuring one. If any of you came across please let me know. Always emphasis is on look,economic production, weight, size etc.What I have observed is that all hybrid varieties are good in volume but low in content. They seem to have more water content that’s all. When I get keerai,vendai or kathari from my garden, even half the quantity of what I normally buy is enough for my family. I feel sumptuous with few gulps. This is very clearly observable in case of keerai, pudhina. You feel hungry soon when you take the hybrid varieties. This at the outset may look unscientific observation – but our stomach is good gauge, I feel.Taste is also really different and delicious with organically grown traditional varieties. You should experience it, no words can describe after all taste is something to realise not to be read about
If Bt is permitted farmers have no control on seed production. It is like proprietary software vs. FOSS . Farmer will be under the mercy of MNCs and their agents. One more exploitation on them. Other day I read in magazine that farmers destroyed bananas because they could sell one thar/தார் for 3 rupees, whereas I, as consumer pay rupees 3 per banana.Even accidental spillage of seed from neighbouring lands will lead to prosection of IPR violation.The farmers who adopted Bt Cotton have not become billionaires – on the contrary may suicides reported
6.Bt not a proven technology.
Bt Cotton experience is very mixed. Though claims/counter claims are there about result, one thing is sure – there is no astounding success. Thus proving that this technology is not yet ready for mass deployment.
7.Indians -Guinea pigs?
Most important and valid point is why experiment in India. No country in the world has allowed usage of GM foods on primary food articles like vegetables. Why experiment on us, if American technology is so good why not experiment there? Most of us do not have good health care. How to find and cure any adverse effect -specially mass consumed items like brinjal. I would like executives of these companies, scientist advocating gm foods to be fed with GM food for atleast 5 years before asking us to eat. Afterall charity begins at home.
Recently in Indian Railways a decision was taken to purchase drugs from only large companies, a minmum turnover of 50 crores . At the outset it seems to be logical, as they all may be have good quality control and other manufacturing practices. Accordingly, exercise spanning several months were done to identify such firms and shortlist them. Surprisingly many of the vital items are not being manufactured by such MNC/big corporates. A case worth pointing out is Inj.Adrenaline. It is a real life saving drug, being given at extremely critical stage to save life. So if we were to trust MNC I am sure our population will soon come down. The reason why they don’t manufacture is economic viability. The market is small but extremely important. Thus dependence on corporates for seeds will one day lead to disaster. They will what will be available in the market – items like curry leaves may not be available as market value is low for them.
So it is better for our nation to ban any Genetically Modified Food. Brinjal is called king among vegetables because it has crown. I am sure this Indian king will defeat western corporate greed, just like Raja Puru defeated Alexander.
I find similarity between proprietary software and GM plants controlled by few companies. I feel we should avoid GM food forsame reasons we avoid proprietary software apart from health. When I get time I wish to write a detailed post. For the time just say NO to Bt brinjal and say jai jai to nattu kathirikkai.
About 7 or 8 years back I had taste (not tryst) with destiny. In Tirupathi, there is a place called Urban Hat i.e Urban village. It is mainly an expo -showing handicrafts, handloom textile etc. The day I visited, there was a Village Food festival. Mostly it was the usual stuff – vada, briyani, fried rice, iddly etc- certainly not what I expected. But in a unconspicuous corner I saw ‘Jonna rotti’. I vaguely remember – Jonna as some of corn or some such thing. I decided to give it a try.
It is a roti made out of jonna (telugu) -Cholam (Tamil) – no it is not makkacholam- maize(the stuff you normally see in beaches with sparkles from aduppu and chilly powder smeared corn) (By the way I am planning to write about Maize,America,Hoysala sculpture shortly- when writing about some history stuff). Cholam is an ancient food grain – I think it is truly native. The roti was served with kathirikkai kuttu(brinjal). This is the first time I ever had a food shock – by its taste. Especially combination roti+kathirikkai kuttu. The effect was there lying dormant for longtime.
Few months back I happen watch Kaimanm- கைமணம்- a cookery programme in Makkal TV. A fantastic programme indeed. Here Ramasubrmanian – Researcher in Tamil food tells us about old food habits and benefits of the ingredients used – mainly millets – instead of rice, wheat. This programme rekindled interest in the lost heritage in me. In one the programme he prepared varagu pongal -
Millets are small seeded grases giving us grains which are healthy. They grow easily in drought like conditions also. There are several of them which were common in our forefather’s time, forming staple food. Kelvaragu,Kambu,Varagu,Thinai, Samai were common. in those days- remember the famous prayer – தேனும் திணை மாவும் கலந்து… In this TV programme featured something I have never heard – குதிரைவாலி அரிசி- horse tailed millet etc. Curiosity increases day by day. If I ask varagu in any of the shops in Selaiyur, Chitlapakkam or Tambaram – they looked at me as though they found someone escaped from IMH Kilpauk. Indeed my attempt in Mother’s native village near Pondy even didn’t help. The useful info was from my aunt – that vargu were common around Tindivanam area few decades back, but requires more labour to sift and hence given up.
With curiosity continuing, I happen to read about an organic vegetable-cum-provision selling organisation in Pasumai Vikatan- volunteers like linux users group – selling them in Adayar. It is named nicely – reStore – well restore back our food to healthy one. Well, search ended here -
The first day I tasted Varagu – Pongal, I could realise how much we have lost to alien food habits. The reason why India is Diabetic and Hypertension capital is clear – forgotten grains – mainly. Now Varagu is regular in my house – dosa,idly, pongal, uppuma – just fits wherever rice fits. Similar is tale about other millets. For the past two months I buy from them regularly. Last week I could get Chola mavu- Jonna/jowar flour also. Next day it was the ‘jonna roti’ with kattirikkai kuttu – and rekindling my taste with destiny.
Well, using these millets have lot of advantage, some of them are
- They release sugar slowly – enough time for our body to produce required insulin. This is mainly because the coat of the grain is in tact and we take whole grain and not polished one.
- They are nutritious – well balanced at that – fibre,protein, iron etc.
- They require very little water and can grow in not-so-fertile lands also. (May be Kaveri, Palar and all such disputes vanish)
- They are disease and pest resistent
I will dedicate post sometime later about the scientific facts of millets. For now I request readers of this post to give it a try.
For more details