New Delhi, July 10 — Farmers from Haryana, Delhi-rural and Western Uttar Pradesh led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) today gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to oppose the proposed introduction of Bt. brinjal, India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop. Bt. brinjal has a bacterial gene whose patent is owned by Monsanto. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has invited comments from stakeholders regarding the biosafety and socio-economic studies on Bt. brinjal by July15 after which it would take a decision. “We condemn the government’s plans to irresponsibly introduce GM food crops without proper long term studies of its impact on the health of the people and environment and on the socio-economic realities of the farmers of this country” said Yudhvir Singh, President, Delhi state, BKU representing millions of farmers in a coalition comprising Bharatiya Kissan Union in North India, Shetkari Sanghatan, Maharashtra, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Samithi (KRRS) in Karnataka and the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association. “In our memorandum (1) to the Prime Minister we have demanded a total ban of GM open air large scale field trials” he said.
Farmers today held dharnas outside the office of the District Collector in at least hundred districts across the country and demanded a ‘Genetically Modified seeds free India’. “We are against the anti-farmer and multinational company friendly agricultural policies of the UPA government,” said Rakesh Singh Tikait who is the spokes person for BKU.
Leaders of the farmer coalition strongly rejected GM technology as unsustainable and expensive and said it is not suited for a country like India where 80% of the farmers are small and marginal. “The unprecedented haste by the GEAC to approve Bt Brinjal is raising suspicions and it is a shame that the government has excluded farmer groups in looking for a solution to the agrarian crisis”, said Yudhvir Singh.
“Our experience in Vidharbha shows that fancy technologies like GM seeds which are introduced as a saviour for farmers, are a pretext for reaping profits by seed companies who get massive royalties from seed sales leaving the farmer with nothing but unfulfilled promises”, said Vijay Jawantia, Shetkari Sangathan. The introduction of Bt cotton has added to the crisis in the agricultural sector in rain fed regions like Vidharbha and has resulted in greater number of farmer’s suicides, he said. “The Rs.1200 technology fee that Monsanto extracted from the sale of every packet of Bt. cottonseed has robbed farmers of Rs. 625 crores in Andhra Pradesh alone and has only driven farmers to suicides”. He warned farmers not to fall prey to the aggressive marketing techniques and huge profit promised by the companies and exhorted farmers to understand the hidden threats behind GM crops and reject the technology.
Yudhvir Singh challenged the government that farmers would fight the introduction of GM seeds in food crops. “The American multinational Monsanto-Mahyco which is responsible for Bt. cotton, has now applied to market Bt. brinjal. This company is in contempt of court for refusing to reduce the patent fee on Bt. cotton seeds despite a court order from Andhra Pradesh” said Yudhvir Singh. “Brinjal is grown by millions of small and marginal farmers across India. Any government must be answerable to millions of farmers in this country if it wants to stay in power,” he said.
Contact: Yudhvir Singh, President, BKU, Delhi State. Mobile : 9868146405 email@example.com,
Notes to editor: (1) Memorandum personally handed over by farmer leaders to Prime Minister, Dr. Man Mohan Singh at 3 p.m. on July 10, and copy submitted to Agriculture Minister, Shri. Sharad Pawar and Minister of Environment and Forests, Shri. A. Raja.