Nitish protests BT-maize trial in Bihar without permission

In a letter to Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, Kumar said Monsanto India Ltd laid trial of BT-maize at IARI campus in Pusa on February 21 before receiving a go ahead letter from the Generic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), vide a letter dated February 24, and without seeking permission from the state government.

The state government was not apprised of the GEAC decision to allow Monsanto to undertake BT-maize, he said.

Copies of the letter issued to the company marked for the state officials did not reach them at all, he said and alleged that the trial was done in a surreptitious manner.

Kumar also urged Ramesh to probe whether the isolation requirement and safeguard norms for BT-maize trail were properly adhered to, as the possibility of pollen travel to other maize fields could not be ruled out because the company followed an isolation distance of only 300 meters instead of one kilometre.

On the 'inadequate' safeguard measures, he said as Bihar was a major maize producing state, this 'risk' was not worth taking as it could have a considerable economic bearing on the state.

Kumar further alleged that the laid trial was done in an unscientific manner and without presence of any state agriculture department officials, raising question marks on the entire process.

He demanded that representatives of the state government be included in the GEAC.
The chief minister also questioned the 'advantages' of BT-maize saying that Bihar's average productivity of maize was more than the national average even without harnessing full potential of existing varieties of this cereal.

In the recent past, the farmers suffered losses by using private hybrid seeds which did not form in grains in an area of 61,000 hectares, the chief minister said.

But the private companies neither took responsibility for deficiency in the seeds nor compensated the farmers and the state government gave them a compensation of Rs 10,000 per hectare causing a burden on the state exchequer, he said.

Kumar reminded Ramesh of an earlier letter in 2009 in which he wrote about the state government's reservation on introduction of BT-brinjal.

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