| Prince Charles meets the English cricket team at the British High Commission in New Delhi on Sunday. (Right) Duchess of Cornwall Camilla was with him. (AFP)
Chandigarh, March 26: If the Left prescribed Osama Omelettes for George W. Bush in India, Punjab’s green activists have equally strong feelings about the menu for another high-profile guest: Prince Charles.
Only, this time it’s about what he should not be served.
Less than 24 hours before the Prince of Wales and wife Camilla are to set foot in Punjab, a band of environmentalists, educationists and literary figures have accused the state government of “double-standards” in selecting the bill of fare for the visitors.
The issue is that the government, which has been pushing genetically modified (GM) crops in the state in the teeth of green protests, will be serving only organic food to the royal couple.
Charles has for over two decades been a champion of organic farming ' growing food “naturally” without the use of synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, hormones or GM seeds. He has campaigned for the practice worldwide long before it became a popular issue, and set up Duchy Originals ' one of Britain’s leading brands of organic food and drink ' in the early 1990s.
A letter to chief minister Amarinder Singh says it is “strange” that while he is forcing farmers to switch to GM seeds ' thus promoting “highly poisonous food for the masses” ' he has spared no effort to ensure that only organic food is served at the official dinner for Charles.
“Organic (farming) is not a fashion, nor is it meant for (the) high society and the royal classes. The ordinary citizen deserves organic, too. Instead, he or she is consuming food with the highest levels of pesticide residues in the world. The similarities of GM technologies with pesticides are uncanny,” says the letter.
The signatories include Jnanpith winner Gurdial Singh, agriculture expert Davinder Sharma, Indian Ecological Society president G.S. Dhaliwal and Kavita Karungati of the Andhra Pradesh-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Their quarrel is only with Amarinder, not Charles.
The prince is staunchly opposed to GM crops and has questioned their long-term effects on health and the ecosystem. He wants a ban on BT cotton, a GM crop, while Amarinder has been spending public funds to promote it.
To save itself the blushes, the state government has arranged for only organic farmers to meet the prince when he visits Bhattmajra village in Fatehgarh Sahib tomorrow.
Charles will also drop in at the Punjab Agri Food Park, Sirhind, which provides ground support for organic farming.
“We hope that when you show glimpses of rural Punjab to Prince Charles, you would do so with full faith in the potential of organic agriculture,” the letter says.
Charles’s support for organic food dates from 1984, when many saw it as a fad.
In 1986, he started converting the 1,083-acre Home Farm, part of his Highgrove Estate, to organic farming. Today, the farm is run as a wholly commercial enterprise and even its kitchen uses only organic ingredients.
“Organic farming delivers the highest-quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification and with respect for animal welfare and the environment, while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities,” the prince had said in 1998.
Apart from its public benefits, the practice also seems to hold a personal meaning for the prince. Last month, he called on British farmers to “restore the romance” in agriculture through organic farming.