The Union government and the Gujarat government are at loggerheads over the damage control exercises to deal with the illegal cultivation of transgenic Bt cotton in the fields of Gujarat. The Union government has asked the Gujarat state government to take into custody all transgenic lint that has entered the market and to destroy seeds and the remains of the transgenic cotton plant on the fields. The state has refused to do so. While denying that any such order has been received by the Gujarat government, state agriculture minister P Rupala categorically states, "We cannot do so, as it is highly impractical and unnecessary."
While placing the ball squarely in the Union government's court, the state government is insisting that the bill to compensate the farmers will have to be footed by the Union government . "Any move to spend public money to compensate monetary losses arising from a criminal act will mean to first lodge a first information report (FIR) against D B Desai, managing director of the Ahmedabad-based Navbharat Seeds, Pvt Limited, the company that has sold Bt cotton seeds to farmers in Gujarat," feels a senior bureaucrat from Gujarat. As of now, the government has not given permission for the commercial cultivation of any transgenic crop in the country and anyone doing so violates the Environment Protection Act and is liable to be punished (see Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 12, November 15, 2001).
Meanwhile, the controversy has assumed political overtones too. While the Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sangathan has vowed to protect the fields on grounds that the benefits of emerging technologies and globalisation should benefit the farmers, the National Alliance representing landless and marginal farmers led former agriculture minister Balram Jhakar, farmers warn that the poor should not be slaves of multinationals.
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