“The largest number of suicides was reported from areas where Bt cotton was used. Farmers have no option there but to use the Bt cotton” — Basudeb Acharia

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has come down heavily against the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. The Committee, which took almost three years to complete its report on the controversial issue, concluded that GM crops, particularly Bt cotton, had not helped farmers.

The Committee, headed by veteran CPI(M) MP, Basudeb Acharia, said that there were arguments that locally-developed biotechnology had significantly contributed to the farmers’ well-being. Adding that “transgenic” in agriculture crops was being propagated as the panacea for several ills in the sector, the report said various Ministries, Departments and the industry supported this “new technology” while placing evidences in the panel.

The panel said it critically analysed the evidence and maintained that “pure science” had not been the only benchmark for its analysis. The report said that more than 70 per cent of India’s farmers were “small and marginal” and agriculture for them was not just a mean of survival, but a way of life.

Vidarbha issue

The Committee, which visited the Vidarbha region to study the impact of Bt cotton, said that the farmers there were not able to shift from transgenic cotton to traditional and farmer-friendly varieties due to non-availability of seeds.

“The largest number of suicides was reported from areas where Bt cotton was used. Farmers have no option there but to use the Bt cotton,” Acharia told reporters here on Thursday.

He said the Co-Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), Arjuna Reddy, was under tremendous pressure to give approval to Bt brinjal, as he was getting calls from the industry, GEAC and a Minister (whose name he declined to provide).

The Committee has recommended a thorough probe into the incident. “We are convinced that these developments are not merely slippages due to oversight or human error but indicative of collusion of a worst kind,” the report said.

Jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 9, 2012)
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