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The recent flooding of untested and unlabelled genetically engineered foods, such as soybean oil, potato chips and milk in the markets and also food received from some international organisations for victims of the Orissa cyclone has caused widespread panic in farmers.
Reflecting the concerns, a tribunal -- formed by more than 25 farmers' groups -- has demanded a 10-year national moratorium on the commercial use of genetic engineering in agriculture. The five-member tribunal, consisting of retired judges and representatives of farm bodies, said the role of foreign companies in seed production and distribution must be "balanced with liabilities and responsibilities."
"The public seed sector which is being dismantled needs to be strengthened with a focus on research and development and farmers' participation," they said. Farmers told the tribunal that sales of genetically-modified seeds by private and multinational companies had resulted in crop failures, leading some farmers committing suicide.
The farmers' associations slammed corporate control over agriculture and said they were against genetically-modified seeds being sold to farmers by foreign companies such as US-based Cargill Seeds and Monsanto. Says Patrick Holden, president of Soil Association, a UK-based organisation: "While countries such as UK are shifting to organic foods in a big way, it is important that genetically engineered foods be shunned in India."