ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

25 March 2002


many thanks to Devinder Sharma for this
INDIA: Bt Cotton emerges as a hot issue

The industry sponsored press conference of some farmers organised by a pro-market group called Liberty Institute (which supports marketing of cigarettes saying that it provides employment) at the Press Club, New Delhi, today generated a lot of fire. Standing up for the strong traditions of the free press, the Indian media today quizzed and grilled the farmers making them literally find an escape route. The press conference was addressed by Mr Sharad Joshi, formerly the chairman of Maharashtra's Shetkari Sangthana, Mr Chengal Reddy from Andhra Pradesh and Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann, a former member of Parliament, among others. Demanding "freedom for the farms", these speakers threatened to illegally cultivate Bt cotton even if it was not approved (on Tuesday) by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee. The GEAC meets tomorrow and it is already known that it is under tremendous pressure to approve Bt cotton. The media took strong objections to the warning issued by these farmers. They wanted to know that why shouldn't the law of the land prevail in the country. They wanted to know as to what role the Liberty Institute had in agriculture. If not, then why was it behind this press conference? Wasn't this an ample indication that the industry is pushing for the genetically modified crops? The media also wanted to know in what capacity these farmers could claim to represent the Indian farmers? The speakers also said that since China was growing Bt cotton in a large area, India too should follow the example. The media asked whether the speakers knew that in China, Bt cotton was grown in a demarcated area? Did they know that in China, Bt cotton does not enter into the food chain? And also the media informed them that even in China there is no difference in yields from Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton. The media explained that in India, the conditions were completely different. Bt cotton can not be grown in an exclusively demarcated area, nor can it be refrained from entering the food chain. Cotton seed oil is used as cattle feed and it also gets into the food chain as edible oil. Incidentally, these farmers and others have always been brought by Monsanto-Mahyco to justify that Indian farmers are more than eager to cultivate Bt cotton. With the media visibly agitated, the organisers made a hasty retreat. #

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