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Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Your Government is wasting millions of Rupees of our public money on inefficient, useless, but hazardous experiments like the GMO Banana.

Ignoring the many existing alternatives our indigenous biodiversity and knowledge offers to address the public health emergency of iron deficiency, India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) has signed an agreement with Queensland University to provide AUD$1.4 million (US$1.44 million) and INR80 million (US$1.43 million) towards the cost of the Indian component to increase the iron content in banana through genetic engineering.

Dr Dale of Queensland University who will receive this generosity from your government ,and has already received $15 million from the Gates Foundation,does not have a single paper related to iron fortification of bananas . This work has been done by the Bhabha Atomic Research Team. Why is our tax money being wasted on this project?

Bananas are rich in nutrition but have only 0.44mg of iron per 100 grams of edible portion. All the effort to increase iron content of bananas will fall short the iron content of our indigenous biodiversity. According to the BARC scientists, they can achieve a 6 fold increase in iron content in GMO bananas.This makes it 2.6mg, which is 3000% less than iron in turmeric, or niger ,or lotus stem, 2000% less than Amchur (mango powder). The safe ,biodiverse alternatives are multifold.

Our indigenous biodiversity offers rich sources of iron. Amaranth has 11.0 mg per 100gm of food, Moringa (Sahjan or drumstick) 28.26, buckwheat has 15.5,neem has 25.3,bajra has 8.0,rice bran 35.0,rice flakes 20.0bengal gram roasted 9.5,Bengal gram leaves 23.8 ,cowpea 8.6,horse gram6.77, amaranth greens have 38.5,karonda 39.1,lotus stem 60.6, coconut meal 69.4,niger seeds 56.7,cloves 11.7,cumin seeds 11.7.mace 12.3,mango powder (amchur) 45.2,pippali 62.1,poppy seeds 15.9,tamarind pulp 17.0,turmeric 67.8,raisins 7.7……..

You have a duty to protect our biodiversity and knowledge heritage. You have a duty to respond to the public health emergency of iron deficiency in urgent, effective ,safe and democratic ways. You owe it to the women of India to recognize their knowledge and empower them to use it to get rid of iron deficiency anaemia and malnutrition.

We urge you to cancel the project and the agreement between the Department of Biotechnology and the University of Queensland in Australia, and instead use the money to support a national movement of community gardens and kitchen gardens in women’s hands so that the last child, the last woman, the last person has access to the rich biodiversity that can remove all forms of malnutrition.

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