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Farmer groups plan protest against spread of GM crops

July 16, 2019 17:49 IST

The groups, including those associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s parent organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have also threatened a big nationwide agitation if growth of illegal GM crops isn't checked.

Image used for representational purpose. Photograph: ANI Photo

Farmer groups, cutting across political lines, are planning on asking the government to prevent the proliferation of “illegal” genetically modified crops (GMO) in the country.

The groups, including those associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s parent organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have also threatened a big nationwide agitation if growth of illegal GM crops isn't checked.

 

The RSS’s own farmer cell as well as Left and socialist organisations have come together to make this petition. They have also demanded strict action against those who are allegedly misleading farmers.

In the letter to Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee chairperson A K Jain, the farmers have said GM technology was dangerous and an expensive distraction from the real solutions farmers need.

“The Government of India and the GEAC should not come to believe that farmers in the country want GMOs just because a couple of fringe groups are campaigning for it or because unscrupulous traders are exploiting farmers’ distress through illegal seed supply networks,” said the petition, which is yet to be sent to Jain.

The petition has cited examples of farmers planting the banned HTBt cotton seeds and BT brinjal seeds in Maharashtra and Haryana without permission, and said if this was not stopped the farmers could go for agitation.

The petition has been signed by representatives of the BJP Kisan Morcha, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, the Bhartiya Kisan Union, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, the Left-supported All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha, and the Agragami Kisan Sabha, among others.

“We feel that the government is being misled by people who are giving it wrong opinions and suggestions,” said B N Chaudhary of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh.

Last month, in a crackdown on farmers growing herbicide-tolerant BT cotton illegally, the Maharashtra government has lodged a police complaint against 12 in Akola district.

Sources said the FIRs were lodged for violation of various provisions of the Seeds Act, the Indian Penal Code, the Protection of Plant Varieties and the Farmers Act, the Custom Acts of 1962 and the Patent Act, 1970.

Several farmers under the banner of Shetkari Sangathana organised multiple sowing of HTBT as protest against what they said was illegal denial of technology.

Under the Environment Protection Act 1986, growing GM crops that has not been approved by the government is illegal and can lead to jail term of five years or a fine of Rs 1 lakh. HTBT is the third generation of BT cotton in India.

On June 12, the GEAC under the ministry of environment and forests had written to the Maharashtra chief secretary seeking report and necessary action for sowing unapproved seeds.

However, despite the warning, farmers in several parts of Maharashtra, particularly in the cotton-growing belt had organised mass sowings. A central government panel in 2018 has found that almost 15 per cent of cotton grown across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana could be illegal HTBT.

Sanjeeb Mukherjee in New Delhi
Source: source
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