Karnataka farmers upset over Bt cotton

Published: Sunday 15 September 2002

just when the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton row was showing signs of dissipating, the issue has resurfaced. And this time, a controversy is brewing in Karnataka.

On August 9, 2002, thousands of farmers of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (krrs), a group of farmers' associations organised a massive rally in protest against the state government's approval of the commercial cultivation of Bt cotton. The agitation was called off, after an assurance from the state agriculture minister Koujalgi that their grievances would be looked into. Though a temporary ban was imposed on the cultivation of the crop in the state, it was withdrawn only five days after coming into force. But M D Nanjundaswamy, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (krrs), a farmers association president says, "We will continue to take direct action against any cultivation of the Bt cotton seeds in the 12 districts of Karnataka."

Food and agriculture policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, a member of the team consulted by Koujalgi at the August 13, 2002 meeting says: "The damage caused by these crops will be dangerous in the years to come and there is definitely a need to be alarmed." However, Ranjana Smetacek, director, government and public affairs, Monsanto Public Holdings Private Ltd, Mumbai doubts the effectiveness of the protest. "The cotton is already planted in Karnataka and the sales target earmarked for this year have been reached." But Nanjundaswamy says that Monsanto is making false claims. "The quota of seeds to be sold in Karnataka is far from over. The seeds are distributed free to poor farmers intentionally by the company as they are easier to convince."

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