Farmers demand herbicide-resistant Bt cotton seeds in Maharashtra
About 1,000 farmers on Monday sowed herbicide-tolerant BT cotton seeds to protest against the government’s reluctance to let them use such seeds that they feel would be more productive.
Currently, cotton is the only GM crop that the government has allowed to be grown in India. But herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton is still not allowed in India.
No other type of GM crop is allowed by the government anywhere in the country.
Other than Bt cotton, the carrying, storing, selling or sowing of GM crops, including HT Bt cotton, invites a fine of Rs1 lakh and five years’ imprisonment.
There were attempts to commercially adopt Bt Brinjal, a GM variety of the vegetable, but then environment minister Jairam Ramesh imposed a temporary moratorium on it in 2010.
Farmer Lalit Patil Bahale was the first to sow the herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton and Bt brinjal seeds in his field in Akot, in Akola district of Maharashtra during the protest. “I am tired of the government’s apathy and indecisiveness in approving the next generation of genetically modified (GM) cotton,” he told this website. “With this act of satyagraha, we are now coming forward to motivate more and more farmers to reject unreasonable restrictions in agriculture,” he said.
The Kisan Satyagraha was backed by Shetkari Sangathan, a farmer’s organisation fighting for open markets and latest technologies.
Anil Ghanwat, the president of Shetkari Sanghatana, said: “A dozen GM crops like maize, soya, cotton have been planted across the world and millions of people and livestock have been eating these for the past two decades. There is no evidence of any adverse impact on their health.”
He said that contrary to claims that GM seeds pollute the environment, these seeds “reduce the use of pesticides that harm many beneficial insects. GM seeds enhance biodiversity. Moreover, by lowering crop losses, they are reducing the need to bring more land under agriculture.”
Ajit Narde, a sugarcane farmer said: “The high regulatory cost of developing new GM crop means that only big companies can afford to invest in it. GM is important, not just for farmers, but for the economic prosperity of India. With GM in oil seeds, we can greatly reduce our import, enhance diversification of crops, and significantly increase farmers’ income.”
The farmers also extended support to Haryana’s farmers, two of whose crop was destroyed by the government that suspected they were growing Bt brinjal.