My Lesson About Genetically Manipulated Food from a little Village in the Himalayas


Sunderlal Bahuguna hugs a tree

Let me tell you where I am coming from.  I grew up in India in the 70s and 80s and our school text books fed us the idea of genetically engineered (GE) crops as the ultimate solution for our poor country’s vast food needs.  Later I went to college in the U.S. and did my studies and research in genetics and ecology.  The plan was to go into a Ph.D. program to become a plant genetics engineer.

However, while in college I got a fellowship to go and work in India on a project with the Chipko – a grassroots movement of rural people, mostly women, working to protect their immediate environment.  Chipko literally means — to hug.  And it was one form of activism.  Women and children would hug the trees, literally using their bodies as shields to protect the trees from being felled.  It’s probably where the term “tree-hugger” comes from.

The founder of the Chipko, Sunerlal Bahuguna, a man of a magnanimous spirit and vision, was very receptive towards me, and gave me many options where I could work on an ongoing project.  I picked a project that I thought would put my background in ecology and genetics to good use.   I was mentored by Dr.Vandana Shiva(who is now (more…)

How to Buy Organic Vegetables

Ever wonder how you can tell whether the vegetables you are buying are organic?  Well, above is a picture of some tomatoes I bought last weekend.  And here are some visual clues to tell whether your vegetable or fruit is organic: (more…)

If Your Summers are Boiling, Do a Tree Count!

If your summers are boiling, it is a good reason to do a tree count in your town or city.   Each summer in India seems worse than the last.  And it is not just because you feel sweat streaming down your face and back, but because there are people are actually dying of heat every day!  (See this ‘Hundreds die in Indian heatwave‘).   And one of the main reasons our summers are feeling more and more like HELL, is that more and more trees are being cut down.   The trees that remain (more…)

Why Garbage Cans Disappear in India: A Story (in Pictures)

One in every 5 humans that inhabits planet earth dumps his/her garbage in India.


Hence, one would expect an organized and efficient system of garbage collection/disposal to be a fundamental condition of nation management.  However, garbage has a whole different story in India.  And here it is in pictures.

At first glance it seems that there is no special place for garbage in India! There is garbage everywhere.

It is dumped under trees like this

Empty cartons and plates from the million food vendors that one sees everywhere in India, are piled (more…)

Why Indians are Drinking Arsenic Water

  At the market yesterday,  I was amused to see this little clay toy of a crow sitting on a water pitcher, holding what looks like a pebble in its mouth.   It is obviously inspired by the famous old fable of the crow and the water pitcher — which I think every country and culture has a version of.   In India this story is part of The Panchatantra Tales and in the west it is attributed to The Aesop’s Fables.  But the story is the same:

A thirsty crow, in search of water came across a pitcher in which there was a little bit of water at the bottom.  But it was too deep for him to reach.  The crow then picked up pebbles with his beak (more…)

%d bloggers like this: