Maharashtra farm widows, activists to oppose GM crops
Mumbai, May 12, 2013, DHNS:
Widows of farmers who committed suicide in the Bt-cotton fields of Maharashtra-Vidarbha, along with tribal and agriculturists, are gearing up to intensify their agitation against the introduction of GM (genetically-modified) seeds into the food crops.
A series of state-wide protests, including hunger strikes and night-long torch marches from the farmland suicide epicentre-Maregaon (Sonbardi) in Yavatmal district, is being planned in the coming weeks.
Last week, a state-appointed committee headed by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) -Member-Dr Anil Kakodkar quietly met at the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CCIR), Nagpur, deliberating over proposals submitted by 29 seed companies seeking no-objection certificate for carrying out field tests of GM food crops in Maharashtra.
The secrecy-filled meeting with members of the committee refusing to furnish details has invited wrath from environmentalists, ecologists and farmland activists.
Talking over phone from Nagpur, farm-land activist Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) said: “The appointment of Dr Kakodkar who spent his life in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre with a specialisation in mechanical engineering is itself strange.”
“One could have understood if eminent persons with integrity from fields of medicine, agriculture, environmental sciences, life sciences and social sciences who could have impartially assessed the impact technology with doubtful records and history, have on human body, environment, society and people. The introduction of Bt cotton seeds is a case in point of a tragedy that is enacted out in Vidarbha fields with farmers quietly snuffing out their lives.”
Interestingly, even as the Centre and several lobbyists working for multi-national corporations were tom-tomming about the increase in the yield, Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil reluctantly admitted that it was time to review the Bt-cotton use as not only the input cost shot up sky-high but it 'also did not bring any benefit to the farming community.'
Tiwari charged that Dr Kakodkar has been known to toe the government line and “that is why we have written letters to all Parliament members to save lives of Indian masses by opposing the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013.
"It is a bill which does not even take into consideration concerns expressed by the Task Force set up in 2004 to study agriculture biotechnology under the leadership of eminent agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan....the bill is just a green signal to allow dumping of dubious technology for experimenting it on Indian masses.
“It is surprising that while western countries go for organic food, our political leaders in Maharashtra surreptitiously allow clandestine trials of GM seeds in food crops...the fixation is really strange,” Tiwari remarked.