Maneka lashes out at Bt firms for 'GM crop menace'

Maneka lashes out at Bt firms for 'GM crop menace'

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi on Sunday expressed her strong resentment against genetically modified crops (Bt cotton) in India observing it could have an effect on the health of people.

At the ongoing fifth national organic farming convention in Chandigarh, Maneka lashed out at biotechnology corporations. She said, “The owners of Bt Cotton lied to us. They told us that Bt Cotton doesn’t require pesticide. But now we find that Bt Cotton cannot grow without the most dangerous pesticide in use. Bt Cotton is the only genetically modified crop grown commercially in India”.

Gandhi was referring to neonicotinoid pesticides used for seed treatment in maize and cotton including Bt Cotton, among other crops. “They have been mired in controversy globally given their harmful impact on the population of pollinators like bees. Many countries, including the European Union, have banned neonicotinoids or placed restrictions on its use,” Gandhi said.

On the occasion, central and state-level ministers from Punjab and Haryana spoke against conventional methods of agriculture. They said conventional methods of agriculture have created havoc on human health and environment and the shift to organic farming was both necessary and desirable. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, an agriculture scientist attending the convention said: “The government is not accepting readily available field data and experience on this dangerous pesticide. They did the same with endosulfan earlier, till the courts intervened to bring about a ban.”

Maneka urged farmers at the convention to stand up and fight the negative developments like synthetic agrochemicals and GM crops that are becoming a great threat to human health, environment and farming. Rajesh Krishnan of ASHA, one of the organisers of the convention said, “Organic farming is need of the hour and the government needs to put the money where the mouth is. Public statements of ministers are not being matched by budgetary allocations or well-laid down programmes.”

At another session on environmental health, Punjab Health Minister Surjit Jyani talked about the link of increasing incidence of various diseases and farming practices. “Farmers became dependent on chemicals due to government subsidy. Use of chemicals has led to a decline in the population of natural pest controllers like sparrows,” he said.

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