The India for Safe Food campaign was launched in July 2012 by organizations and farmers from across the country to discuss the rampant use of pesticides in food production. Over the next few months at least 100 organizations came together to highlight the issue and the benefits of non-pesticide farming.
Street plays, rallies, bicycle rides and signature campaigns were launched to get people talking about the ill effects of pesticides. “Satyamev Jayate definitely heightened the pitch of public debate on this issue. People began demanding organic food and farmers felt motivated by this,” says Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.
Additionally, over 90,000 people signed an online petition demanding every citizen’s right to safe food, which the campaigners were hoping to give Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. “We wanted to meet him to show him the growing demand for organic food and why government policies now need to change to reflect this, but the minister never met us,” explains Ms Kuruganti.
However, the campaigners feel that much more can be done. “While we managed to reach out to people, we did not manage to change government policy on this. This shift to non-chemical agro-ecological approaches to cultivation requires massive changes to take place. The government needs to create a level playing field for organic and chemical agriculture. Today, organic agriculture receives very little investment in terms of research or extension, especially when compared to chemical farming. That remains an ongoing battle for us,” says Dr Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
While the pace of the campaign has slowed down for now, Dr Ramanjaneyulu says the organizations do come together often to discuss issues in the public domain. “We brought together a lot of people together to talk about the endosulfan ban. We also discussed the drawbacks of the food security bill and the plan to work out mechanisms for safe food in the bill,” he explains. “It’s not enough for India to have the Food Security Act; India needs a safe food security act.”