Agri Business

Protest against Centre’s ban on GM crops gains momentum

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on June 11, 2019

Members and supporters of the Shetkari Sanghatana defied the ban on GM crops and sowed HTBT cotton seeds on a farm at Akoli Jahagir village in the Akola district of Maharashtra on Monday Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury   -  Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Maharashtra govt awaits lab report on HTBT cotton seeds sown in Akola

Protests against the Centre’s ban on GM crops have gained momentum in Maharashtra. Defying the ban, farmers of Akola district sowed genetically modified HTBT cotton on Monday. While the State machinery awaits lab reports on sown seeds, farmers across the State have extended support to the Shetkari Sanghatana’s ‘civil disobedience’ movement demanding permission to cultivate GM crops.

‘Lift the ban’

“It is high time the Centre took a call on GM crops. The ban on cultivating GM crops must be lifted as farmers have every right to sow the seeds they want to. It is not the scientists, but laypeople who are riling against GM technology. Farmers will not succumb to any pressure as they are reeling under various crises,” said former MP and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti.

Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat said farmers across the State have joined the movement. “We will go ahead with planting HTBT cotton even if the State government decides to use police force against us.” Farmers will sow HTBT cotton and protect the crop, he said and added that any move to destroy the crop would be resisted.

HTBT cotton seeds sown

Farmers had sown HTBT cotton in Lalit Bahale’s two-acre plot at Akoli Jahagir village in Akola district. Bahale told BusinessLine that he completed sowing on Tuesday. “Agriculture office members visited and asked for sample of seeds sown in my field. I will cooperate with the government machinery. But I want to assert that people who are against GM crops must not target farmers calling them agents of any seed company,” said Bahale.

Akola District Collector Jitendra Papalkar told this paper that he has convened a meeting of officials to discuss the issue. “The meeting will be attended by agriculture and other department officials. We will discuss the matter and send seed samples for lab testing. A further decision will be taken after we receive the report,” Papalkar said.

However, the State government is unlikely to take stringent action against the farmers ahead of the State Assembly elections. Carrying, storing, selling, or sowing of banned GM crops is an offence that carries a five-year imprisonment term and a fine of ₹1 lakh.

Minister of State for Agriculture Sadashiv Khot was unwilling to comment on the development and told this paper that he would respond later.

According to a report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, 2018, India ranks fifth in global cultivation of GM crops. Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in the country.

Responding to a question on the productivity of Bt cotton, the Ministry of Agriculture recently told the Lok Sabha that the productivity of cotton increased from 191 kg per hectare in 2002-03 to 477 kg per hectare in 2017-18 and the production of cotton in the country increased from 86.21 lakh bales in 2002-03 to 348.88 lakh bales in 2017-18 due to the adoption of Bt cotton.

Approval of any new genetically modified crop is given on a case-to-case basis after thorough scientific evaluation of health and environmental safety under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Rules, 1989.

Published on June 11, 2019

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