Farmers nix GM rice trials

KRRS activists oppose open-air experiment of Duponts rice strains

gm reaper: Police arresting the agitating KRRS members at Doddaballapur on  Wednesday. dh photo

The open-air experimental trial was being conducted at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), under GKVK by the multinational seed major. Hundreds of farmers from the area, owing allegiance to the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, assembled at the KVK and staged a protest demonstration against the field trials of GM crops.

The trials were recently permitted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the nodal agency for GM crop releases in India, at its 103rd meeting held in New Delhi on 29th September, 2010. Dupont, the second largest seed corporation in the world after Monsanto, is developing a GM rice strain using a transgenic seed production technology (SPT), that can be used for commercial hybrid seed production.

“The farmer will oppose any such open releases of GM crops as they are a step towards surrendering our agriculture to US multinational companies who are out to control our seed and thereby our agriculture,” KRRS vice-president Venkata Reddy, who led the protest, declared.

Addressing the farmers, he said GM rice posed a threat to farmers and consumers due to the health and environmental implications it entailed, as borne out by many scientific studies across the world.

Earlier in the year, Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop to reach the commercialisation stage, was put under an indefinite moratorium by the Union Environment Ministry, owing to strong opposition from all sections of society.  Since then, seed companies and their backers in the government have been trying to push for open-air experiments of a variety of GM crops, including GM rice.

Reddy highlighted the major violations in the field trial at the KVK and said no information was given to the local panchayat on the conduct of the trials as required by the existing rules.

“People in the region had been kept in the dark about such dangerous experiments with no information boards placed outside the field trial areas to warn people about the experiment. There was also free access to the trial plot which, in the absence of any a warning, could lead to the seeds going out of the trial region and thereby mixing up and contaminating other regular rice varieties which farmers in the region cultivated,” he said.

Apprehensive of such a threat, the Kerala government had banned any open releases, including experiments, of GM rice, Reddy said and urged the Karnataka government to declare the State GM-free. He also urged public sector research institutions in Karnataka to desist from getting into ventures with MNC seed companies that posed a grave risk to the farmers.

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