Cross Posted from India Times
CHANDIGARH: Even as Punjab government is showing keenness to introduce Bt maize in the state by giving go-ahead to Monsanto to set up a research and development centre for the crop, the decision has ruffled feathers of environmentalists who are grouping for an agitation against it.
While farmer groups are divided on the issue of introduction of Bt maize, Kheti Virasat Mission, an environment organization that led the front for banning of Bt brinjal, is up in arms against the government and planning to hit the streets in protest. “No state in the country has given a go-ahead to Bt maize as its detrimental impact on health, if it enters food chain, is well documented. The state governments logic that a private company will help the government work towards food safety and security is flawed as corporate firms are interested only in profits,” said Umendera Dutt, heading Kheti Virasat Mission.
On Monday, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal had asked the US-based Monsanto hybrid seed company to establish its research Centre to undertake extensive R&D for the production of high yielding hybrid seeds of the Maize in the state. The CM also directed the Vice Chancellor (VC) Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to provide technical data and logistic support to enable them to produce quality hybrid seeds best suited to the climatic conditions of the state.
While Bt cotton has been embraced by farmers in Punjab, there had been widespread agitation against Bt brinjal with concerns mounting as the genetically modified vegetable was set to enter the food chain, unlike Bt cotton. Neighboring Haryana, barely two months ago, had seen strong opposition from farmers’ unions and green activists to the ongoing field trials of genetically modified Bt maize and had demanded immediate suspension of such trials, threatening to destroy all such crops.
Farmers in Punjab are clearly divided on the issue. President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Balbir Singh Rajewal said, ” It is for the scientific community in the country to give a go ahead to Bt maize. But if a go-ahead is given, the farmers would go for Bt maize as it would be economically viable than the present seeds.”
The state government, on its part, is maintaining that the crop is being allowed without flouting any norms. A senior official in the agriculture department said, “The environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee gave the green light to field trials of Bt corn developed by Monsanto on December 24, 2010 in five locations for rabi 2011 in the states of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.”
It also gave the go ahead to the multinational seed company to conduct trials in nine locations in kharif 2011 in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.