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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Agriculture panel mulls use of genetically modified oilseeds in Maharashtra

Maharashtra chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis, who is heading the committee, said they are looking at restricted use of the technology for specific crops.

mumbai Updated: Aug 17, 2019 01:19 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
The committee also decided to amend the Essential Commodities Act.
The committee also decided to amend the Essential Commodities Act. (HT image)
         

The high-powered committee on transformation in agriculture – constituted by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and comprising nine states – is in favour of using genetically-modified (GM) crops for oilseeds to reduce the country’s dependence on imports.

Maharashtra chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis, who is heading the committee, said they are looking at restricted use of the technology for specific crops. He was speaking to the media at the government guest house in Sahyadri, Malabar Hill, after the meeting. He was accompanied by Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

“India exports 65% edible oil and to reduce this quantity, we need to develop a variety of oilseeds. The use of GM crop is a much-debated issue. However, countries from where we import edible oil also use GM technology. Today, we asked the states to give their views [on the matter],” Fadnavis said.

“I am not an expert and cannot decide whether it is good or bad. So there must be some certification for the use of GM crops and if they can be certified as per our rules and regulations, then use of GM crops should be allowed,” he added. Farmers have been demanding that herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, the genetically-modified varieties of the two crops, be permitted for sowing. According to Fadnavis, while the state government initially used to allow GM crops, it had later banned its use.

The committee also decided to amend the Essential Commodities Act. “They [the states] were of the view that the Act should be amended in such a way that it will have zero-impact on the price mechanism. The NITI Aayog has suggested that the provisions should be invoked only if the price of a commodity rises above 50% of the market price,” said Fadnavis.

He said they discussed other issues such as the improvement of crop resilience in view of climate change, making market-intelligent export interventions, development of export-oriented infrastructure, upgradation of agriculture technologies and development of seed varieties.

Fadnavis said the food processing rate needs to be higher than the agriculture rate. “We decided to make some policy changes. Post-harvest value additions and universalisation of agriculture credit were also discussed in the meeting,” he said. The CM said the principal secretaries of all nine states will form a draft report, based on their views on the issues discussed. The draft report will be submitted before the high-powered committee and after making desirable changes, the final draft will be submitted to the Prime Minister in the next one-and-half months.

The committee was formed last month, following a directive by PM Modi at a governing council meeting of NITI Aayog. It was asked to submit a report on bringing agriculture reforms and raising farmers’ income.

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