Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By Our Staff Correspondent
Addressing a seminar on Bt cotton and its impact on Indian agriculture, at the Agriculture College at Bhimarayanagudi, 90 km. from here, the AIKS General Secretary, K. Varadarajan, said it was unfortunate that important decisions which would affect farmers were being taken without consulting them.
He said the secrecy over Bt cotton had created doubts about the efficacy of the seed. Prior to the introduction of Bt cotton, the Union Government should have come out with results of independent laboratory tests about the positive and negative aspects of Bt cotton with regard to pest control.
The Government, which was open to a discussion on the issue with scientists and other experts, was fighting shy of talking to farmers, who would be directly affected or benefited by the decision to introduce Bt Cotton, he added. Mr. Varadarajan said several doubts had been expressed about the advantages of Bt cotton, and agricultural scientists, who should throw more light on the new seed, were deeply divided. People, particularly farmers, were confused about impact of Bt cotton, he added.
He said the mystery surrounding the decision of the Union Government to ban cultivation of Bt cotton in Gujarat a few months ago, and the revocation of the ban after three months, had caused consternation among farmers. "The Government should come out with details on why the order banning Bt cotton was revoked," he demanded.
Mr. Varadarajan said the Government should study the initial experiments after the introduction of Bt cotton in other countries, and clarify the points raised by agricultural scientists who were opposed to the introduction of the seed. The conditions prevailing in developed countries such as the U.S., Germany, and France could not be compared with those in India. More than 80 per cent of the people in India depended on agriculture, and any major decision affecting the agriculture sector should be taken after taking farmers into confidence, he added. He said the seed industry should not become a monopoly of multinational companies. Decisions such as which varieties to grow and how to grow them should be taken by farmers, and MNCs should not have any say, he added. Srinivas, entomologist in the Agriculture College, came out in defence of Bt cotton, and said field trials at the U.A.S., Dharwad, had proved that it had many advantages and no disadvantages.
Answering queries from farmers, Dr. Srinivas said field trials in the U.A.S., Dharwad, were sponsored by Monsanto, which had the patent for the Bt cotton variety. He had no answer to the question of why the Government had imposed and revoked the ban on Bt cotton in Gujarat. He clarified that Bt cotton was not the answer to attacks by pests other than bollworm. The President of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha, Maruti Manpade, spoke. The Secretary of the district unit of the sangha, Chennappa Anegundi, welcomed the gathering. Upperi of the Agriculture College spoke.
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