India's farmers don't like GM crops

National level meeting of farmer bodies rails about Bt cotton

Published: Monday 31 October 2005

-- the national level meeting of farmer bodies held on September 22, 2005, organised by the National Commission on Farmers (ncf), heard many angry voices against genetically modified (gm) crops, specially Bt cotton.

The Bharat Krishak Samaj (bks), executive chairperson, Krishan Bir Chaudhary, said that Bt cotton cultivators had incurred heavy losses, particularly in Andhra Pradesh (ap). Yet, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (geac) has approved 13 new varieties for cultivation in other parts of India. Vijay Jawandhia of the Maharastra-based Shetkari Sangathan said, "Monsanto's advertisements on the efficiency of Bt cotton are misleading." He added that farmers should shift to organic cotton since there was no global market for Bt cotton.

Dinesh D Kulkarni of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Pune, said that in and around Pune, Bt cotton seeds are sold with the induction of terminator genes so that the farmers can't use the seeds next year. Farmers of Haryana and Tamil Nadu complained about the failure of Bt cotton crops due to spurious seeds. Also, they are costly and do not reduce pesticide use as promised. They demanded stringent regulations in the sale of seeds and compensation.

However, P Chengal Reddy, chairperson, Federation of Farmers Association, ap, said that gm crops held better prospects and called for setting up of an autonomous regulator, funds for research and public-private partnership for gm crops. He blamed ngo s and the media for confusing farmers. Bhupinder Singh Mann, former member of parliament, also promoted gm crops but also asked for competition against Monsanto to reduce the exorbitant price and said that anti- gm ngos are actually agents of the pesticide industry.

M S Swaminathan, chairperson, ncf, said that the village knowledge centre, proposed in an earlier report of ncf, shall inform and clarify queries about gm crops. He also proposed a statutory regulatory body, other than geac, to be set up for regulation of gm crops and stressed on price regulation and labelling for them, too.

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