Urban Leaves India: 2009

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Organic or Bt on our plates?

Dear Friends,

What is all the fuss about genetically modified food and Bt brinjal? Just how much should you be concerned?

At this juncture, when India is on the verge of approving Bt Brinjal, its first genetically modified food crop – and many more are in the pipeline – Urban Leaves and Navdanya are organizing an event where you can:

· watch a film on the subject

· talk to experts in the matter

· learn to protect yourself, your community and your environment

· understand why the organic, Bt-free path is a far saner option

‘Poison on the Platter’ is a 30 min documentary film directed by Ajay Kanchan and presented by Mahesh Bhatt. It succinctly presents the health effects of GM food, the regulatory situation, and above all, asks us to be aware of what is in our food and to ensure the safety of our food.

The film will be followed by a talk and discussion with Vasant Futane, Bharat Mansata, and Devi Lakshmi Kutty,

Vasant Futane has been practising organic farming for 25 years in Amravati, and also actively promoting watershed management -- soil and water conservation -- for over a decade. He is familiar too with the serious problems faced by Bt cotton farmers of his district.

Bharat Mansata is an author- editor- activist and a co-founder of 'Earthcare Books' (Kolkata), involved in environmental and sustainability issues for over two decades. He most recently authored ‘The Great Agricultural Challenge’ and ‘Organic Revolution’.

Devi is a sustainable agriculture and food activist, associated with Thanal, an advocacy and research group for sustainable agriculture in Kerala.

A suggested voluntary contribution of Rs 50 – to cover costs and to support our outreach work – is requested. Refreshments will be served.

Directions to Maharashtra Nature Park: MNP is located opposite the Dharavi bus depot. The nearest station on the central line is Sion from where you can reach MNP by auto. On the western line get down at Bandra or Mahim Station .Cross to the east side and catch an auto or taxi and ask for Dharavi bus depot. Do not get down at the gate opposite to the bus depot use the one that is away from the bus depot. For more detailed directions please call!


On October 14th 2009, the regulators[1] of the Government of India have cleared Bt Brinjal, the first Genetically Modified (GM) food crop in the country and the first ever vegetable in the world with a toxin-producing gene inside it, for commercial cultivation. The Government of India is to now decide on its commercial release after holding consultations with all stakeholders in January and February 2010.
Here are at least 10 reasons why we should say NO to Bt Brinjal:--
GM crops are created by the unnatural insertion of foreign genes into host DNA of a plant, which leads to numerous unpredictable changes that are potentially dangerous for health. Bt Brinjal has been artificially created by insertion of a bacterial gene (Bacillus thuringiensis-Bt) to produce a toxin 24X7 inside the plant to target one pest—the Brinjal Fruit & Shoot Borer (it has to be noted that while many pests and diseases attack the crop, this technology is claimed as a solution to one such pest).
2. There are many unaddressed questions with regard to the very need of this Bt Brinjal. The National Agricultural Research System as well as many practicing farmers have enormous knowledge on successful, sustainable and economically viable pest management without the use of synthetic pesticides[2]. In the face of such alternatives, it is not clear why the GM option (with the claim that it will bring down pesticide usage) is being pushed. Further, no one can argue that Bt Brinjal would be an answer to the hunger crisis!
3. India is the Centre of Origin/Diversity of Brinjal (more than 2500 varieties) and no GM version of any crop has been introduced in its Centre of Origin/Diversity anywhere in the world. This diversity—national heritage---is now under great threat from Bt Brinjal. Remember, brinjal is also a crop of great socio-cultural significance to Indians.
4. Health implications of Bt Brinjal—No independent research to prove the safety of Bt Brinjal exists. All decision-making happened based on the crop-developer’s (i.e. Monsanto/Mahyco’s) data. Further, no long-term (i.e., 90 days plus) or human feeding studies exist. This Bt Brinjal also contains anti-biotic resistant genes and poses serious public health concerns with the possibility of ‘horizontal gene transfer’[3]. What’s more, independent analyses of the crop developer’s biosafety data concluded that this Bt Brinjal is unsafe and unfit for human consumption.
5. With Bt Cotton (the only approved GM crop in India), there are several reports of adverse animal and health impacts (including animal deaths) that have not been systematically investigated. Further, from various studies, GM foods are known to cause allergies, immune system changes, damage to organs like kidneys and liver, affect growth and metabolism and impact reproductive health adversely.
6. Looking at another agricultural technology – synthetic pesticides – we need to remember that even here, many chronic and other health impacts were never assessed adequately. The same players who gave the world such toxic pesticides are now pushing GM seeds saying that pesticides are toxic for us – agreed, wholeheartedly – but without closing down their agrichemical businesses! Unlike chemical pesticides, however, GM seeds can never be recalled, since seeds have a life of their own and propagate themselves in uncontrollable ways….
7. If Bt Brinjal is approved, we, as consumers, will have no way of knowing whether the brinjal we consume daily is GM or not, as all brinjals in the market will look the same. This will be a violation of every consumer’s right to know, right to safe food and right to choose which food she/he wants to eat. Further, labeling cannot be a solution for India where the majority of consumption is of unpackaged foods in the open market and from local mandis.
8. Bt Brinjal has not been assessed for its impact on Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM). Brinjal and related species are used widely in Ayurveda and other medicinal systems. One can hence not predict whether the entry of Bt Brinjal would make ISM medicines/practices ineffective or even toxic!
9. If Bt Brinjal is approved, this will open the way for rapid approvals of other GM food crops. There are at least 55 plants being developed in India through genetic modification including rice, cabbage, bhindi, cauliflower, tomato etc. An approval to Bt Brinjal will open up the floodgates of other approvals and the GM industry is very keen on bringing in this Bt Brinjal as the Trojan Horse.
10. The constitution and functioning of the Expert Committee set up to study Bt Brinjal, as also the haste with which the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has cleared the crop is itself questionable on fundamental scientific and democratic grounds. Several State governments have written to the Centre to express their concern and some have declared a ban on Bt Brinjal in their states, given that Agriculture and Health are state subjects as per the Constitution of India. For their constitutional right over their agriculture to be upheld, no Bt Brinjal should be allowed anywhere in the country.

Now is the time when the Government of India needs to show whether it believes in (and supports) sustainable development or not. A precautionary approach is the only way forward to uphold the best interests of Indian farmers and consumers in this matter - the Government should not allow this unnecessary Bt Brinjal, particularly because safer, viable and more sustainable alternatives exist.
Please submit your concerns with regard to Bt Brinjal to Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (Independent charge) for Environment & Forests preferably by post and/or fax:
1. Mr. Jairam Ramesh,
Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent charge)
Ministry of Environment & Forests (MOEF)
Paryavaran Bhavan
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi - 110003, India
Email: mosef@nic.in
Tel: +91-11-24361727
Fax: +91-11-24362222
2. Dr Manmohan Singh,
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India,
# 7, Race Course Road,
New Delhi 110001.
Phone: 011-23018939/23011156;
Fax: 011-23015603, 011-23019545,
011-23016857, 011-23014255
pmindia@pmindia.nic.in, manmohan@sansad.nic.in
3. Smt Sonia Gandhi,
United Progressive Alliance (UPA),
# 10, Janpath, New Delhi 110011
Phone: 011-23014161; 011-23012656
Fax: 011-23018651; 011-23017047
Email: 10janpath@vsnl.net, soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in

You may also submit your comments/observations to Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forests, via MoEF website:
You can get more information on www.indiagminfo.org clicking the top left-hand link called “Bt Brinjal related material”, including all the independent analyses of crop developer’s biosafety data.
You can get in touch with :
E-mail: iamnolabratdelhi@gmail.com ; Visit us: www.iamnolabrat.com
Follow :
Facebook@ http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/iamnolabrat
Twitter @ http://twitter.com/iamnolabrat

[1] Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in the Ministry of Environment and Forests based on the recommendations of an “Expert Committee” on Bt Brinjal.

[2] For information on safer, cheaper and viable ways of brinjal pest management visit: http://www.takingroots.in/

[3] Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), is a process in which an organism incorporates genetic material from another organism without being the offspring of that organism. By contrast, vertical transfer occurs when an organism receives genetic material from its ancestor, e.g. its parent or a species from which it evolved.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


When we talk of integrating what we have learnt about composting our kitchen waste or growing our own herbs, vegetables etc... in our day to day lives, we need to adopt practices suitable to our own environment. Each situation is unique and there is no one solution for problems/situations. It therefore becomes important that each person " experiments" on his own. This does not mean that the wheel has to be invented again and again..... It helps to learn from others ventures, experiment on our own and then share our experiences too. This ensures a dynamic exchange of knowledge related to practical situations.
Natueco farmers interact using a unique methodology called ‘Prayog Pariwar” intoduced by Prof. S. A. Dabholkar. “Prayog” means “experiment” and “Pariwar” is a networking family. People come together by sharing of the results of their experiments so as to solve their farming problems.
We owe our growth and success to this healthy exchange of knowledge and skills. Both Dr. R. T. Doshi and Shri. Dipak Suchde have been members of this Prayog Pariwaar. We hope to spread this legacy through our network of "Urban Leaves".
Please visit our e-group http://www.cityfarmers@yahoogroups.com/ created for networking, sharing experiences, knowledge and skills.

Invitation to City Farming

Welcome everyone! To the magic of city farming. More than an introduction, we extend this invitation to you, to share in and grow our experiences with city farming. We hope that it transforms your life in marvelous ways, as it has for so many of us. There is enough and more for everyone!

                                             Mumbai Port Trust Terrace Farm

It was only eight years ago at Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) that we first began to recognise abundance in our lives. Ironically, only when we acknowledged the enormity of our waste and the cost involved in getting rid of it, did change occur. Dr. R.T.Doshi inspired us through his (terrace) city farm to take the first step, of changing our perception, from waste into resource. From then on, with the guidance of Shri Dipak Suchde, we and our city farm have kept growing. We have benefited greatly from the wisdom of Prof. Sripad A Dabholkar founder of “Natueco Farming” and now, with the success of our 3000 square foot Natueco terrace farm, we feel lucky to share our own struggles in farming with the Prayog Pariwar and others. Pl see www.natuecocityfarming.blogspot.com for more information on same.We are humbled by the creative solutions offered, by common people, found in their everyday lives and are awed by the millions of mysteries that keep confronting us. We don't believe we have all the answers. But we hope that, if we are able to make any aspect of city farming easier or more delightful, we will come one step closer to our dream.

IMAGINE all the grey (terraces and balconies) we can see from the 21st floor of Phoenix tower turned green. Wouldn't it be wonderful? Won't you join us?


Thanks to Preeti's group of friends, Uday, Devi, Neesha, Jyoti, Tejal and Suresh Urban Leaves , a volunteer group of enthusiasts in search of sustainable living lifestyles in Mumbai, under the aegis of Vidya Varidhi Trust, was formed in March 2009.

Read the full story HERE


Saturday, 14 November 2009

City Farming workshop at MNP

With the threat of Global Warming, the poison in our food, the decline in contact with Nature and rising stress levels, city farms have become the need of the day. If left to itself Nature will not leave a stone unturned in greening every inch of space. The bright green wild weeds growing even in the small spaces, nooks and corners: above our bus stops shelters, corners of the road are a testimony to this. Nature shows us the way and Natueco connects us to nature. So dear friends register for the workshop and take the initiative to create a city farm in your area. You will not only be rewarded with the sweet fruits of your labour but will also inspire and lead others. Register and participate in a workshop to be conducted from time to time at Maharashtra Nature Park. For registrations contact :
A slideshow of photographs taken during workshop conducted on 27th Sept 2009.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Dervaes family and their HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION (California, USA)

5th November, 4PM - 7PM at Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP), Dharavi

Watch the film....

Homegrown Revolution was one of five films from the U.S. accepted in the CMS Vatavaran Environment & Wildlife Film Festival in New Delhi, October 27-31, 2009!

Interact with the family....

The screening will be followed by a presentation and lots of interaction with participants. The Dervaes family is eager to share experiences with other farmers or would be farmers in India.

Register your name with

Devi Lakshmikutty at l.sreedevi@gmail.com - contact number: 9967712384 OR

Geeta Jhamb at geet@earthling.net -contact number: 9833699811

Note: A minimum donation of Rs.100/- per head (to cover costs) is payable at the venue.

Snacks will be served. All are requested to carry their own drinking water to avoid plastic and buying water. If it is convenient please bring a small plate and cup for snacks and tea !

If you have local/ indigenous varieties of seeds to share/ exchange please bring them along.

Directions: MNP is opposite Dharavi bus depot. However do not use the gate opposite the depot use the one that is further away. The nearest stations are Sion (Central line) and Mahim E or Bandra E (Western line/ Harbour line).

More information at http://www.PathtoFreedom.com

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Mission and Vision

The Vision:
We came from villages to the city and left our roots behind.
We grew fresh roots  by covering cities with urban farms,
A small haven lies right next to us that we can call our very own,
Spreading smiles from Urban Leaves to farthest ends of the globe.
                                                                                                     -- Uday Acharya

During the course of these 9 years at developing the terrace garden at MbPT, I came across so many like minded people and shared a deep bond with them. With all the talk of global warming, food insecurity,the threat of GM crops,farmer suicides, garbage problems in the city, pollution,vanishing of green spaces, rising stress levels we felt it was time to "walk the talk".Urban Leaves was born under the aegis of "Vidya Varidhi Trust" in my drawing room one such evening when I sat down with a few of my close friends. 

We didn't really have much to start with except a sincere wish to see as many green terraces in Mumbai as possible, a committed heart, and wonderful friendships always inspiring and supportive of our endeavors and our failures.

We hope that in time to come we can

  • support creation of urban farms
  • bring nature close to people
  • create more topsoil which is fast vanishing
  • inspire people to see the benefits of eating local, organic,natural 
  • help prevent global warming
  • increase bio diversity
  • learn and share sustainable lifestyles

Come! Won't you join us! A small initiative, will go a long way in saving mother earth!