Bt brinjal which is at the centre of the controversy over GM crops
T P Venu
The parliamentary committee on agriculture recently reported that adequate tests were not carried out on Genetically Modified (GM) crops and recommended a thorough probe into the whole matter. The call to restructure the whole regulatory system has been made several times and the report comes as a positive development to people who have been fighting a battle against GM crops.
Surprisingly, Andhra Pradesh has some of the most vociferous critics of GM crops and also is one of the states in India that has seen a lot of protests by farmers and social groups. A number of suicides in Andhra Pradesh have been by farmers of Bt Cotton. One of the foremost critics who have been in the forefront against cultivation of genetically modified food crops, former Agriculture minister, Vadde Shobanadreeswara Rao said, “At least now the government needs to act and impose a complete ban on open field trials not only in Andhra Pradesh but all over the country.
If we continue to give in to the multinational companies we will not only lose our seed sovereignty but also put the lives of lakhs of farmers at their mercy.”
The report says that there have been lapses on Biosafety studies and ignored factors such as food and seed sovereignty and farmers livelihood. GM crops have an impact on health and environment. These aspects were overlooked when the approval was given. Speaking the ramifications, G V Ramanjaneyulu, Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, says, “There is a great need to have a scientific enquiry, restructure the regulatory system so that there is accountability and put a complete ban on field trials across the country till we resolve the Biosafety issue.” He added, “If we were to see the statistics, a 70 per cent increase in yield happened in 2004-05 and the Bt cotton accounted for just 6.5 per cent and by 2009-10, the area of Bt cotton increased by 85 per cent but the increase in yield was only 2 per cent.”
The argument that productivity increases and the cost of production is less in GM crops is questioned by Koppula Narsanna, another crusader in the cause of organic farming, questioned the very need for GM crops. He said, “India is bestowed with diversity of crops and we have natural repellants. Bacteria are available in the soil.
Naturally available bacteria should not be disturbed. Unlike in western countries where there is mono culture, we don’t need GM crops at all. We are just playing into the hands of multinational companies.”
G V Ramanjaneyulu, said, “It is ironical that the state is about to host a Biodiversity summit while field trials happen in Ranga Reddy district. Also AP is the only state where field trials are taking place.”