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GM food creates scare among farmers

Rejection of GM food by many countries appears to have triggered large-scale protests by farmers in India, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 21:35 IST

The contamination of GM rice produced in US and its rejection by many countries worldwide appears to have triggeredlarge-scale protests by farmers on field trails of GM rice approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

A police complaint has also been lodged against the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the ministry and (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) MAYCO, the company producing the seeds in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

The ministry, earlier this year, had allowed MAYCO to conduct limited field trails in 10 areas on GM rice, a first of its type for the food product. A few months after the ministry's approval, the European Union reported contamination of US GM rice produced in Arkansas province. The entire consignment was returned by EU, followed by Japan and some Latin American nations, thereby putting the US rice industry into crises. Later, US government confirmed contamination of just 0.06 per cent.

The ripples were also felt in India, one of the largest rice producing nations of the world, when Rice Exporters Association of India demanded a suspension of the GM rice field trails till its safety is ensured.

However, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) activists destroyed fields in Rudrapur village in UP on Sunday claming the trails were being conducted in violation of Environment Protection Act. Last month, GM rice crop was destroyed by BKU activists in a field in Haryana. BKU has accused the company of violating the Genetic Engineering guidelines by not informing the farmer that his land was being used for GM rice trials and local agriculture officer about the trials, said Dharmender Malik, BKU activist.

In Karnataka, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) discovered a similar violation where BT Lady Finger (Bhindi) was sowed in fields without proper information to the farmer and the Panchayat president. Similar protests have also been reported from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where the maximum farmer suicides have been reported from area under BT Cotton cultivation. Now, BKU and CSA had demanded an investigation into the violations by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry.

When contacted, a member of GEAC, said the issue would be discussed in the next GEAC meeting with progress of field trails of various GM crops will be reviewed.


First Published: Nov 06, 2006 21:35 IST