Swarna Bharat Party supports the following press release issued by Shetkari Sanghatna after illegal planting of GM seeds.

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1500 Farmers Sow HTBt Cotton and Bt Brinjal, Assert Their Right To GM Seeds

(Akoli Jahagir, Akot, June 10, 2019) - Farmers have sown the seeds for a new revolution in India. 

Tired of government’s apathy and indecisiveness in approving the next generation of genetically modified (GM) cotton, a farmer, Lalit Patil Bahale, sowed the first seeds of the herbicide tolerant (HT) Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, in his own field in Akot. Fifteen hundred farmers joined hands to sow the seeds in a two-acre plot. 

Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers organisation fighting for open market and latest technologies, has promised to support farmers’ rights to sow the seeds of their choice. For the rest of this sowing season, farmers across the country will declare their support to agricultural biotechnology by sowing HTBt cotton and Bt brinjal. 

Recently, the Haryana government accused two farmers of illegally growing genetically modified brinjal and destroyed their crops. The farmers who gathered in Akot demanded that the government compensate the affected farmers for the destroyed assets and the income lost. In solidarity, the participants are raising money to aid all those who may be similarly affected.

Lalit Patil Bahale said, “Farmers have been surreptitiously planting HTBt cotton for the past few years. By this act of Satyagraha, we are now proudly coming forward to motivate more and more farmers to reject unreasonable restrictions on agriculture. We have to purify “chor Bt”, which is the common parlance for HTBt, and transform it to “Hak ka Bt”. (Chor Bt naahi, Hakkache Bt).

Ajit Narde, a sugarcane farmer and the Head of Science and Technology Cell of the Shetkari Sanghatana said, “The high regulatory cost of developing new GM crop means that only very large companies can afford to invest in it. This greatly retards the development of agro-biotech. GM is important not just for farmers but for the economic prosperity of India. With GM in oil seeds, we can greatly reduce our import, enhance diversification of crops, and significantly increase farmers’ income.” 

Anil Ghanwat, the President of Shetkari Sanghatana, said, “A dozen GM crops like maize, soya, cotton have been planted across the world, and millions of people and livestock have been eating these for the past two decades. There is no evidence of any adverse health impact on either humans or animals. Contrary to claims that GM is polluting the environment, it’s, in reality, reducing the use of pesticides that harm many beneficial insects. GM is actually enhancing biodiversity, and by lowering crop losses it is reducing the need of bringing more land under agriculture.”

The farmers in attendance said that they frequently experiment with new varieties of seeds.

Gajanan Deshmukh, a farmer from the Jintur tehsil of Parbhani district, comes from a family of that has been planting cotton for the past 50 years. But Bt cotton’s declining efficacy against pests compelled him to stop planting cotton in 2014-15. When he heard about the HTBt seeds, he decided to conduct an experiment: “Last year, I planted three acres of HTBt and two acres of the old Bt. To test HTBt, I didn’t use any pesticides but did spray herbicide twice. While I got an average seven quintal output from BT, the produce from HTBT was 12 quintals,” he says. This experience has encouraged Deshmukh to try and procure reliable seeds and plant five acres of HTBt this year. 

Anil Chavan, a small farmer from the Shrigonda tehsil in Ahmednagar district has been growing cotton since the mid-80s. In 2016, he shifted to HTBt. “I managed to save around Rs 8,000 per acre on labour cost and this year, I could sell my cotton at 25% above MSP”.

A farmer leader from Fatehabad district in Haryana, said, “In an acre, the actual production is 300 quintals. But at best, only 150-200 quintals could be marketed because the rest is infested by pests. Now with HTBT, the farmer is able to market almost the entire 300-quintal produce. The brinjals are healthier, brighter and secure a better price in the market.”

Seeing better yield and better future with HTBt cotton, auto driver Govind Ramdas Shahane of Yavatmal district has now returned to cultivating cotton. His three-acre land with the earlier variety of cotton yielded 7.5 quintals last year while 6 acre with HTBt has yielded 50 quintals. 

After the green revolution, cotton has been India’s biggest success story yet today’s farmers are being denied access to improved cotton seeds. They are forced to buy HTBt seeds informally and weather risk of crop failure due to the possibility of fake seeds. The government is responsible for the farmers’ current vulnerabilities and it must now approve the emerging technology in the interest of the farmers.

The government talks of doubling farmers’ income, and withdrawing unreasonable restrictions on GM seeds is a golden opportunity for farmers to enjoy higher income. 

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For further questions, please contact:
Anil Ghanwat, 99237 07646
Ajit Narde, 98224 53310 
Lalit Patil Bahale, 97654 7002

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