Tuesday, Mar 26, 2002
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By Gargi Parsai
While the pro-Bt cotton lobby is pushing for approval in the name of "giving choice to the farmers", the anti-Bt cotton group is asking for more trials especially in the wake of some European Union studies' adverse findings on genetically modified (GM) crops. A recent study released by the European Union saying that GM crops pose an environmental risk and that the genes will inevitably escape from GM crops contaminating organic farms, creating superweeds and driving wild plants to extinction is likely to make it difficult for Governments to grant approvals for commercialisation of GM crops
Speaking under the banner of a PR agency funded partially by multi-nationals, Sharad Joshi said he was neither for GM technology nor against it, but he thought the Government was delaying approval to the technology ''in the name of conducting trials'' and thus depriving Indian farmers of "a choice''. He brought with him farmer representatives from Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh who said they were willing to take the risk from Bt cotton if it reduced use of pesticides. Nobody talked of the risk to consumers.
"The risk'', says a Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, in a letter to the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, "is that recent studies by a doctor in the Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences claimed that genetically modified food could enhance several auto-immune diseases and also pose problems of toxicity''. The doctor has linked GM foods with dreaded diseases such as AIDs, cancer and Hepatitis B.
The Confederation of Indian Industry has also sought approval for Bt cotton as a technology to equip farmers with the requisite technology and competitiveness. Some experts fear that commercialisation of Bt cotton would hit textile exports.
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