Five Greenpeace activists were arrested while protesting at the inaugural session of the Asia Pacific Seed Association’s (APSA’s) annual conference ‘Asian 2000’ in Bangalore today. Amidst heavy security arrangements, Greenpeace activists dressed in vegetable suits of tomatoes, aubergines and corn, demonstrated against the promotion and introduction of genetically engineered Seeds.

At a time when mounting concern over the environmental risk of genetically engineered crops and food has led to their rejection in several ‘developed’ countries, claims of genetically modified crops “feeding the world” and being particularly beneficial for small scale farmers were being used to promote the GE industry in agricultural economies of Asia.

With a ‘Save Our Seeds’ message, Greenpeace stated that the main agenda of the Asia Pacific Seed Association’s (APSA) conference was to facilitate seed trading in the region. The conference was seen as an instrument to promote the seed and biotech industry’s plan of introducing genetically modified crops into the region. Highlighting their concerns, Greenpeace pointed out that in addition to the serious environmental risks posed by genetically manipulated crops, the monopolistic corporate control over seeds was dangerous.

“Of serious concern is the fact that the very basis of life – the seed – will be ‘owned’ and controlled by commercial interests. Corporate controlled vested interests are developing gene altered seeds and utilising the patent regime, claiming exclusive ownership of seeds to gain control over agriculture, said Michelle Chawla, Greenpeace’s Genetic Engineering Campaigner. Genetic engineering is being utilised as a tool by seed companies to control life forms.”

Greenpeace stressed that in a predominantly agrarian economy; a monopolistic hold over the farmers’ seed systems wherein seeds would be available on payment of annual royalties could have a devastating impact on small farmers.

Additionally, the lack of corporate liability or responsibility in the case of contamination of seeds by genetically manipulated varieties is another issue of serious concern as it would intensify the risk of genetic pollution of India’s agro-ecosystems. Given that the subsequent irreversible environmental risks associated with planting gene altered crops was high, Greenpeace demanded that corporations take responsibility and face up to this liability.

Greenpeace has been campaigning worldwide against the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and pressuring the seed industry to pay for its liabilities.