Monday, November 29, 1999

Chandigarh hotel declares war on GM food

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Chandigarh, May 15 (PTI) Maintaining that it does not use genetically-modified (GM) products as part of an initiative to prevent the entry of such food into the country, a local hotel has declared its premises ''GM-free''. "We will not use GM food here even if the government allows its use in the future. This is in continuation of our efforts against GM food," Atul Grover, managing director of Hotel Rio, said here today. The hotel owner claimed that it would use only organically-grown crops in its food items to safeguard the health of its customers. "We are strongly opposed to serving GM foods or ingredients derived from GM products because of the long-term risks associated with it," he said. The Kheti Virasat Mission, an NGO associated with the Anti-GM food campaign, would ensure the supply of naturally- grown products to the hotel. Praising the initiative, P M Bhargava, eminent bio- technologist and former vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, said, "This is surely the first hotel in the country to have become GM-free." Earlier this year, the Centre had disallowed the commercial cultivation of genetically-modified Bt Brinjal in the light of strong protests by farmers, NGOs and experts. It had said that the step could be taken only after independent tests proved it safe. Stating that the country lacks a credible laboratory to test GM food, Bhargava said there is every possibility that it has already landed into our plates. He blamed the Centre for its "lack of will" in installing such a facility. It would take an investment of Rs 300 crore to build a state-of-the-art laboratory for testing GM food, the bio- technologist said, adding that such a project would take at least six years to complete. Bhargava also asked the Punjab and Haryana governments to ban GM food cultivation in their states. The expert sought a review of Bt Cotton cultivation across India, in view of its adverse impact on soil fertility and the ecology. "Farmers in Andhra Pradesh have complained of the adverse impact on soil fertility due to the sowing of Bt Cotton," he said. "We have always said that Bt Cotton will get infested as the crop is not sustainable," he said.

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