New Delhi: Lalit Patil Bahale, a farmers’ leader in Akola district of Maharashtra, is to publicly plant the unauthorised herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready Bt cotton, as well as Bt brinjal, on Monday at Akot, 50 km north of Akola. This is perhaps the first Kisan Satyagraha seeking freedom from overbearing government regulations, restricting the Indian farmers’ access to modern technology. Bahale says farmers are not demanding any privilege from the government, rather freedom from government control. The programme he is organising is an open challenge to the government.
He heads the Akola unit of the Shetkari Sanghatana which has invited farmers and friends to join the novel protest from 9 am to 4 pm. The morning session will be devote to discussions on the benefits of GM technology for farmers in India. The programme is an answer to the recent controversy in Haryana over sowing of alleged GM brinjal, although there is little clarity on whether it is indeed Bt brinjal.
Bangladesh has approved Bt Brinjal in 2013, but the Indian government overruled the recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry in 2009, and imposed a moratorium on Bt Brinjal in 2010, which still continues. Over the past few years, herbicide tolerant Bt cotton has been planted in many cotton growing areas of India, particularly in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. A Government of India field survey in 2017, found that 15% of cotton sampled from these states were the unauthorised HT Bt variety. A similar situation had prevailed in 1999-2001, when unauthorised Bt cotton was first found in Gujarat. Widespread acceptance of GM cotton by the farmers had almost forced the government to approve the first generation Bt cotton in 2002.
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