Saturday, October 31, 2009
GM crops like East India Co, say authorities in Madhya Pradesh
30 October, 2009 10:38:00
By Sanjay Sharma - - - - Bhopal, Oct 30 (IANS) A Madhya Pradesh minister believes there is no difference between genetically modified (GM) crops and the East India Co, the British firm that began trading with India in 1600 but subsequently came to rule the country till 1858. And many farmers and activists agree with him.
"GM crops are the latest version of the way East India Co colonised India," said Farmer Welfare and Agriculture Development Minister Ramakrishna Kusmariya.
"Commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal (a GM crop) will not be allowed in Madhya Pradesh," Kusmariya told IANS.
The seeds will "destroy farming and enslave farmers", the minister said, adding: "The only way to save Indianagriculture is to keep the traditional seed exchange systems alive."
Kusmariya conveyed the same message earlier this week to the Coalition for a GM-Free Madhya Pradesh, an alliance of about 40 organisations opposed to GM crops.
According to Neelesh Desai, an office-bearer of the coalition, "Kusmariya said Madhya Pradesh understands the dangers of GM food crops."
The reaction comes after the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, India's biotechnology regulator, earlier this month approved the commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal in the country.
The Coalition for a GM-Free Madhya Pradesh says farmers' rights over their seeds and agriculture would be seriously jeopardised "if GM seeds like Monsanto's GM corn are allowed".
"The state government should, as a real solution, shift farmers to low-cost, toxic-free ecological farming practices," said Prashant Dubey, a member of the Right to Food Campaign, a coalition member.
"It is ridiculous to pump in crores of rupees to support rural employment in the form of NREGA and then take away existing employment potential in agriculture, especially for women and poor agricultural workers, by bringing in technologies like herbicide tolerance," Dubey added.
NREGA or the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, enacted in 2005, aims to provide 100 days of employment annually to adult members of any rural household willing to work on public service projects for a daily wage of Rs.100.
Sachin Jain, a fellow activist at the Right To Food Campaign, said: "GM foods are unsafe and should be prohibited."
Added Ishwar Tripathi of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, a farmers' group also affiliated to the coalition: "GM crops do not increase yields as claimed by the industry."
Similarly, Hamara Beej Abhiyan, another organisation opposed to GM foods, wants Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, which "want to protect themselves from the onslaught of GM seeds", to put appropriate legislation in place.
"There are many ecological alternatives to pest management and other issues that confront farmers," said Jayant Verma, a member of the organisation.
(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)