Durga Puja organisers to raise awareness about GM foods

Kolkata, Sep 21 (IANS) Marrying art, literature and science, organisers of Durga Puja here have depicted genetically modified organisms (GMO) and hybrids to raise awareness about public health concerns and environmental risks surrounding GM foods.

The organisers, the Tala Barowari Durgotsav, plan to take the idea forward in sync with the October 2nd ‘March Against Monsanto’ global campaign.

“Majority do not know that GMO products or transgenics have entered our food system. Consumers will be able to make an informed choice about GM products if there is proper labelling on packages,” Avishek Bhattacharya, working secretary of the puja that is in its 95th year, told IANS on Monday.

“We are trying to raise this issue at a Durga puja since it’s a platform where lakhs of people visit pandals. We will be able to reach out to a larger audience this way,” Avishek said.

To break down the concept in a simple and attractive format, the organisers have turned to Bengali poet and playwright Sukumar Ray’s famous collection of poems “Abol Tabol” (Rhymes without Reason) which brim with fantastic creatures, including hybrid animals, and continue to be the staple of children’s literature in West Bengal. Sukumar Ray was the father of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

For example in the rhymes, there is a parrot-faced lizard, a ‘duckupine’ (a cross between a duck and porcupine) and a lion that sprouts deer horns.

“There will be 3D structures over 20 feet depicting crossbreed plants and animals. In addition, information on GMO crops and their reported health effects will also be prominently displayed,” he said.

Bhattacharya said they are mulling holding a rally ahead of Durga puja to pitch in for the global protest.

So far, five nations in Europe have announced plans to ban the growth of Monsanto’s GMOs within their borders including Germany, Scotland, Latvia and Greece.

GMOs are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering.

This creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Currently, Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial production in India.

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