Farmers in Maharashtra are gearing up to sow non-approved Genetically Modified (GM) seeds of crops like cotton, maize, soyabean, and brinjal this season. Led by the Shetkari Sanghatana, this movement will be undertaken across the state, with farmers setting up boards on their fields proclaiming the nature of their crop.
Anil Ghanwat, president of the Shektari Sanghtana, said this movement is an extension of their ongoing one to make technology freely available for the farm sector. Last year, the Sanghatana had led thousands of farmers in Akola district in a civil disobedience movement, which saw farmers sowing the non-approved herbicide-tolerant (Ht) variant of GM (Bt) cotton. Akola district authorities had filed FIRs against the organisers in this regard, but the state had seen farmers openly sowing this variant.
Access to technology has always been a major demand for the farmers’ union, whose founder, the late Sharad Joshi, was an ardent votary of GM technology. Back in the 1990s, Joshi had led perhaps what was the first of its kind mass movement to demand access to technology in the farm sector. Bt cotton, the commercial release of which was approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in 2002, remains the only GM crop permitted in the country.
While refusing to divulge the source from which they would be obtaining the non-approved seeds, Ghanwat said farmers will put up boards on their fields declaring the nature of their crop. “This kharif, we will have farmers sowing GM maize, soyabean, and brinjal, along with HtBt cotton… In case authorities want to book them, they are free to do so,” he said. In India, storage, usage, transport, sale, or possession of such seeds can attract a jail term of five years, as well as a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
On Tuesday, a delegation of the Shangatana had met state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and state Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse to discuss their demand for the introduction of the latest technology in the fields. The delegation has requested Bhuse to take up the matter with the central government and press for the approval of GM seeds in various crops. “Access to technology is important as it will allow our farmers to compete in the world market. We will continue our fight in this direction,” he said.
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