Karnataka farmers want target cargill again

Opposition to multinationals in the agriculture sector in Karnataka may soon spread throughout India

Published: Tuesday 31 August 1993

-- (Credit: KRRS)THE KARNATAKA Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), which recently destroyed a processing unit of multinational Cargill Seeds, has lent strong support to a broad-based campaign against a plant set up in collaboration with W R Grace & Co of USA to produce a biopesticide from neem seeds.

KRRS and several other organisations have got together under the banner of Neem Campaign (NC) to oppose the biopesticide plant -- reportedly the world's largest -- to be set up in Tumkur by P J Margo Pvt Ltd in collaboration with W R Grace and Co of USA, which has a patent on a neem-based insecticide. The Tumkur plant will produce a biopesticide intermediary from neem solely for export to USA, where it will be used by Grace to produce a pesticide called Margosan-O. For NC, patenting a formulation from a tree that has been traditionally used by Indian farmers as an insecticide is not acceptable.

NC activists feel that while the Tumkur plant will use enormous quantities of neem seeds, the product will not benefit the Indian farmer. They claim the plant, when fully operational, will crush 20 tonnes of seeds daily. But P J Margo managing director Pradeep Jaipuria says initially, the Tumkur plant will need less than 2 tonnes of seeds daily. He feels the issue is being blown out of proportion. "Ours is not the only company in this line in the country. ITC, Godrej and Tomco are also producing neem-based pesticides," he says.

Meanwhile, early on July 12, about 200 KRRS members destroyed the partly built hybrid seed processing unit of Cargill Seeds India Pvt Ltd at Siravara village in Bellary district of Karnataka. The incident, according to KRRS, was part of its beej satyagraha (seed protest) and was a notice for the multinationals to quit India.

But Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily condemned the attack and ordered a police enquiry. Cargill Seeds has assessed the damage to its plant at Rs 5 lakh and said it was examining legal options against the KRRS. The company also denied the KRRS charge that it was draining Indian genetic resources and its hybrids that were sold in India were derived from imported germplasm of high genetic quality.

Meanwhile, at a July 30 meeting in Hyderabad in which KRRS members and local Janata Dal unit members participated, multinationals were charged with raiding the country's biodiversity. And with KRRS gunning for foreign collaborations in the agriculture sector, the movement could soon cross the borders of Karnataka and envelop the whole country.

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