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Farmers protest BT brinjal introduction in Maharashtra.

Byline: Pamela Raghunath

Mumbai Farmers in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region have appealed to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to oppose the central government's proposal to grant sanction to the commercial production of Bt brinjal (a genetically modified eggplant) in the state.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari, a representative of farmers, told Gulf News from Nagpur by telephone: "I have spoken and written to the chief minister that the sanction would cause great damage to farmers in this state and he told me he was seriously considering the matter."

The issue has turned controversial with major brinjal producing states u West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that produce 60 per cent of this vegetable in India u vehemently opposing the introduction of Bt brinjal in their states. Even Tamil Nadu has opposed the commercialisation of Bt brinjal.

The states that have not responded so far are Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Tiwari is unsure since Chavan heads a coalition government and he would have to speak with the Nationalist Congress Party leaders. Moreover, Bt brinjal is being developed in India by Mahyco [Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company], he said.

He is worried about Chavan's decision since the Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is scheduled to announce his decision tomorrow in New Delhi on the recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a statutory authority set up under the Environment Protection Act of 1986. It had made a recommendation on October 15 that Bt brinjal should be commercialised.

Prior failure

"The VJAS hopes the government has learnt its lessons from the "complete failure of Bt cotton introduced in Maharashtra five years back," Tiwari said.

Tiwari says farmers were told that Bt cotton would help in protecting the crop by its built-in resistance to the fruit and shoot borer, a destructive insect.

Yet, farmers had to use the same amount of pesticides as before, he says. The area under cotton cultivation increased from 1.6 million to 3.2 million hectares but the yield was low.

The failure of the crop led to 10,000 farmers committing suicide after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2005.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Feb 9, 2010
Words:380
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