We at Centre for Sustainable Agriculture firmly believe that no technology is set in a socialvacuum. All technologies are socio-politically shaped, with differential socio-political impacts indifferent settings (spatial and temporal), apart from other possible impacts. There is a politicaleconomy behind each technology that needs to be understood, so that informed choices can bemade. We are aware that most technologies are driven by economic considerations andregulation of such technologies is also shaped by and tied to such money power.Agricultural technologies, unlike many other technologies, have a major impact on human beingsand other life forms. This is because of the huge magnitude of this human activity – farming isspread over a major part of this planet’s land and is the primary occupation of millions of people,especially in the third world. Further, these technologies will impact each one of us as we are allconsumers of food. Agricultural technologies also have the ability to leave lasting impacts, as thelesson from chemical pesticides has shown us. Fate of future generations can be sealed one wayor the other by agricultural technologies deployed at any particular point of time. A closer look atagricultural technologies pushed as “modern science & technology” shows that science iscertainly fallible and it is more than clear that decisions related to agricultural technologies shouldnot be left to the so-called “experts” alone. Farming itself is a complex process with impactsspilling over onto communities and their very lives and livelihoods. Understanding of such acomplex process cannot be left to reductionist science and its believers.In the case of Genetic Engineering, more than any other agricultural technology, the need for utmost precaution is urgent and imperative. There is ample evidence to show that it is impreciseand unpredictable. What is worse, it is irreversible since it involves living organisms which arecapable of procreation and further spread, unlike the chemical molecules used in pesticides. Itspotential for contamination and bringing about evolutionary-level changes in eco-systems cannotbe denied. The impacts of GE in farming will change the structure of the planet’s food at themolecular level and there is no turning back.It is also a technology that is being aggressively pushed with the enormous money power of largetransnational corporations like Monsanto. There is a great hype created around the technology as“frontier science” and as the only alternative for the future. The reality on the ground is however different from the rosy picture that the industry promotes. There is growing rejection of GE as atechnology the world over. Nearly a decade and a half later after the first GM crop, only 12countries have opted for the technology in any significant manner. It is also interesting to notethat in countries like the USA, where the technology has been promoted and adopted on a largescale, farming has to be propped up with huge subsidies, in spite of such ‘efficient’, ‘frontier’,‘precise’ technologies. Many negative experiences are already available in India from Bt Cottoncultivation in the past six years.We realize that India is a major battle-ground for the worldwide markets that the industry iseyeing. Within India, we find that policy-makers and scientists are blind to the full impacts of thistechnology and have an unscientific and irrational support for it. During the Green Revolution andintroduction of Indian farmers to chemical farming, civil society groups and farmers’ organizationshad not intervened and did not present any alternate vision for agriculture. The same mistakecannot be allowed to be committed with the ‘Gene Revolution’. It is our duty and role to create aninformed public debate on Genetic Engineering in agriculture and we have decided to come upwith this Introductory Handbook as our contribution to this debate – a debate not just on GE inagriculture
but on democratization of science & technology. We have freely borrowed frommany authors/activists and are grateful to them for their material. We thank Hivos and Centre for World Solidarity for the financial and other support extended.
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture