Even as the state government is yet to convey its stand on the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, several farmers, scientists and activists on Wednesday opposed the genetically modified food crop.
At a public hearing on Bt brinjal held in Nagpur, farmers dressed as brinjals and shouting ‘Bt Brinjal – Go Back’ surrounded Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh. “There is no shortage of brinjal. It is the cheapest vegetable and grows in plenty. Why then, would we need higher yield,” questioned Avinash, a farmer from Wardha. “We will have to keep buying new seeds as the plants won’t regenerate. Bt brinjal will mean profits only for seed companies.”
The Nagpur meeting attended by 800 people had representatives from Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. This was the sixth of the seven public hearings planned across India.
Nagpur was chosen as a meeting venue as 60 per cent of the cotton growers using genetically modified cotton (Bt Cotton) belong to the Vidarbha region.
Citing their experiences with Bt cotton, farmers opposed Bt brinjal. “In the first year, my four acre land yielded 25 quintals of cotton. But in the second year, six acres gave only 30 quintals,” said Saroja Patil, a Vidarbha farmer.
There was no representation from the state government at the meeting. “Three months back, I had written to various chief ministers for their views on Bt brinjal. Maharashtra is yet to respond,” said Ramesh. “We will wait.” Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are also yet to reply.
A section of scientists supported the need for Bt brinjal. Citing Bt cotton as a success, KR Kranthi, director, Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, said it has done no harm and increased productivity.
Among the speakers, 30 farmers opposed Bt brinjal while 10 were for it; 15 from among the scientific community opposed it while seven supported it; and all 17 non-governmental activists rejected it.