India: TN farmers denounce toxin-laden GE crops as threat to humans, livestock & food security Print E-mail
 Thursday November 16, 2006

TN farmers’ body up against Bt rice

DH News Service Chennai:  
Farmers in Tamil Nadu have launched a campaign against ongoing field trials of genetically engineered (GE) crops, including rice, on the grounds that these crops are full of toxins and they pose a threat to humans and livestock, besides preventing biodiversity and compromising India’s food security.

Following reports of field trials being conducted with the permission of the Department of Biotechnology in select locations of the state, farmers and activists working under ‘Tamil Nadu Velaan Kappu Kuzhu’ (Tamil Nadu Agriculture Protection Committee) raided a farmland at Alandurai, on November 10 and uprooted crops under field trial for GE rice.

The trial is going on with the help of the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University and is understood to be sponsored by a private firm under a transnational seed company. The company has not reacted to the development except lodging a police complaint against the farmers for trespass and destruction of crops. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Farmers and Toilers Party leader K Chellamuthu, who is on the farmers’ protection committee, said that the trial was being done without adhering to biosafety guidelines. The local panchayat, and even the owner of the farmland were unaware that GE crop trials were on, he said.

He said that experience had taught farmers in Indonesia and India that Bt seeds neither effectively controlled pests nor ensured higher yield. He held Bt cotton responsible for suicides of farmers. He said Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) was a toxin that poisoned crops and produced sterile seeds.

However, the Agriculture University has justified the GE crop trial. “Bt rice is not a threat to biodiversity, and Bt genes can be introduced in any variety or hybrid that is popularly cultivated,” said the officials at the Tamil Nadu farm university.