Protests against GM seeds
Statesman News Service, April 7 2008

BHUBANESWAR: Stepping up the protest against genetically modified seeds, a petition signed by 30,000 farmers of the state, intellectuals and activists has been submitted to the state government on the eve of the 'Peoples No Genetic Engineering Day' which is to be observed tomorrow.

The coalition has launched a campaign to observe 8 April as 'Peoples No Genetic Engineering Day'. and has decided to hold rallies at Kendrapara, Bargarh, Bolangir, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Ganjam, Nayagarh and Sambalpur districts. Letters from 50 sarpanch on their letterheads have been submitted to the agriculture minister asking him to see that Orissa remains free from genetically modified seeds.

Social activists who have been working against introduction of the seeds, said that despite the statement of the agriculture minister Mr Surendranath Nayak on 22 June 2007 that genetically modified crops will not be allowed into Orissa, the biotech industry and its supporters are making an attempt to introduce Bt Cotton in Orissa with the false promise to farmers that Bt Cotton will result in increased yields.

Bt Cotton seeds are illegally available in the state and illegal cultivation of the crop has been discovered in Patnagarh block of Bolangir district. Field trials of Bt Cotton are being undertaken since 2002-03 as per official information.

They alleged that the Bt toxin has already shown its hazardous nature by its adverse impact on the health of the soil, by destroying friendly soil bacteria and also on cattle, who have died in large numbers after grazing on the Bt Cotton fields.

Cotton is per se a risky crop and the Bt technology has only added to the risks involved by exposing the farmer to the vagaries of the weather, new pests and by increasing the input costs which have spiraled beyond control.

With regards to Orissa, the activists noted that 80 per cent of the farmers are marginal and landless who depend entirely on agriculture for their food and livelihood security. In cotton growing districts of Bolangir, Koraput, and Rayagada there is a disturbing trend of land under cotton cultivation increasing at the expense of land available for food crops. This is a direct threat to the food security of the region.

The State is thoroughly unprepared for this new untested technology as the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) is yet to hold a single meeting since inception and the District Level Committee (DLC) has been formed in only two districts of Orissa.