Farm activist demands stop to GM seeds in food crops
NAGPUR: Reacting strongly to state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil's admission that the genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton had brought no benefits to the farmers but on the other hand seed companies were thriving on it, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari said that time has come to at least stop the introduction of GM seeds in food crops.
"Around 5 million people in Maharashtra depend on cotton cultivation that is done in 41 lakh hectares. Now, the state government has finally admitted that Bt cotton is adding to farmers' distress even as 95% of them are using the MG seeds. The question now is who will bell the cat? Is there no way to stop the onslaught of GM seeds," asked Tiwari.
Addressing a workshop of agriculture officers of Nagpur and Amravati division on Monday, Vikhe-Patil had remarked that Bt cotton seeds checked bollworm attacks but that help the farmers as they had to use costly chemicals to protect their crops from other pests. Vikhe-Patil suggested that indigenous seeds and high-yield hybrids developed by Central Institute of Cotton Research need to be promoted as they were cost effective.
Tiwari said, at least now, the government of India should not pass the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill which is pending in the Parliament. If made into law, BRAI will make it easier to introduce GM seed in food crops too. This may result in more farmer suicides in other regions too, Tiwari warned.
"Till around 1970, Vidarbha farmers cultivated cotton using seeds from their own plants. With the introduction of hybrid seeds, the yields increased but so did the need for costly fertilizers and insecticides. Agriculturists have also blamed the restrictions and royalties placed on GM seeds by multinational companies for the spurt in suicides. Unlike traditional seeds, GM seeds are non-renewable and must be purchased every year. Today, they dominate the market," said Tiwari.
In August 2012, technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on all field trials of GM food crops. But, BRAI may throw the doors open for new GM seeds, he added.