Farmers affiliated to the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) on Thursday protested against field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn at the Regional Research Station of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (CCHAU) in Kurukshetra. The research station is conducting trials for American seed giant Monsanto’s Indian subsidiary, Monsanto India Limited.
Hundreds of agitating farmers were seen carrying banners and placards, stating “Monsanto GM Corn—Quit India”. They raised slogans against the technology and the Indian government for allowing the trials. Addressing the protestors, BKU Haryana state president Gurnam Singh said: “It has been a month now since our delegation met the state agriculture minister Paramvir Singh and requested him to stop GM trials in the state. But it’s unfortunate that our state government has failed to act. So the onus is now on us farmers to protect our fields from contamination.” He urged the farmers to stay united and ensure that the state’s food is not contaminated by GM food. He added that under the garb of GM technology, the corporate world is trying to take control of Indian agriculture.
According to information, Monsanto India Limited, Pioneer Seeds, Syngenta India, PHI Seeds Private Limited (a subsidiary of Du Pont) and Dow Agro Sciences India Private Limited have got permission for field trials of their GM crops in Haryana. These GM crops are developed by inserting genes which impart desirable traits to crop plants, such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.
Pankaj Bhushan, co-convenor of Coalition for GM Free India, said that it was unfortunate that agricultural state of Haryana was allowing risky GM crops while its counterparts like Rajasthan have banned it. He said that massive opposition from all quarters in the past had forced the Central government to put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal two years ago. “But now the governments, both at the Centre and in the state, are permitting backdoor entry of GM crops through field trials,” Bhushan said.
Super weeds and other worries
Former senior scientist from CCHAU Ramkumar said experiences of various countries which grow GM corn commercially, which are herbicide-tolerant, have eventually to contend with super weeds that are now tolerant to herbicides. Finally, farmers have ended up using more and more herbicides with less and less impact, which is really worrisome. He added that scientific studies have pointed that potency of herbicides like Monsanto's glyphosate, commonly called Round Up, causes cancer, birth defects, female hormonal disruptions and many other problems.
Rajesh Krishnan, campaigner for sustainable agriculture with Greenpeace India, said, “it is unacceptable that after repeated recommendations from credible agencies, both legislative and judicial, our government continues to permit open releases of GM crops in the country in the name of field trials.”
The protesters demanded that the Central and state governments stop the promotion of destructive agricultural technologies and support ecological farming which is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. They also took a solemn pledge to keep both the state and the country free of GM crops and to take action if any open releases of GM crops are permitted in the name of experimental trials.