“Kisan Swaraj Yatra reaches Nagpur – Presents data to show that public sector Bt Cotton has been a failure”

October 13, 2010: After traveling through Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra which started at Sabarmati Ashram on Gandhi Jayanti reached Nagpur today where it begins its 6-day tour through Maharashtra. Addressing media persons here today, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra presented data from fact-finding visits to show that public sector Bt Cotton has been a failure and that seed supply has been stopped already this season. Activists posed a question to the government on its high investment on public sector biotech and wanted to know if even the feasibility of such options has been worked out. “The experience of CICR Bt Cotton is illustrative enough to let us know that this is an unacceptable wastage of taxpayer’s funds”, said the press release. Further, the reason for stopping the supply of seed this year needs to be put out publicly, especially since it appears to involve IPR complications, said members of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) which is undertaking the Kisan Swaraj Yatra.

“Crores of rupees are being spent on transgenics in different institutes of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) in India without any sound basis to prove that the transgenic option is absolutely essential, or that it is effective or that it is safe for us and our environment. Our fact-finding visits to farmers in Wardha district who grew Bikaneri Bt Cotton last season (which is the first season of the introduction of public sector Bt Cotton wherein certain regulatory norms were relaxed for an easier entry into the market) show that they incurred great losses. Bikaneri Bt Cotton was touted as the way by which farmers can save their own seed and re-use – what we found was that none of them could actually do that, given the sad state of the crop. We demand that the farmers be compensated by all concerned agencies immediately. What’s more, this is an illustration of what is in store with public sector transgenics in this country and shows that this option is not feasible and is not good for farmers. Why should the government be spending taxpayers’ funds on unneeded, wasted efforts?”, asked Datta Patil of YUVA, an NGO working with farmers in crisis-ridden Vidarbha.

In India, the largest number of projects in the regulatory pipeline for commercialization of transgenic crops is from the public sector. However, many projects are in the PPP mode with private sector involved in these and activists believe that this is just a strategy by multi-national corporations to gain acceptability and credibility with the public. IPR complications exist with many of these projects and as in the case of Bt Brinjal developed under the ABSP II project, the proprietary rights over the end product by the private sector entity clearly show that this is just bio-piracy and appropriation of farmers’ resources via the public sector agencies. What is also apparent is that the public sector agencies do not have any say in the seed market today, since the government allowed powerful private corporations to take over the entire sector. In such a case, what is the point in investing taxpayers’ funds on development of such toxic seed?

Speaking on the occasion, Vasant Futane, an organic farmer stressed that the only way that Vidarbha farmers can get rid of the crisis that they are mired in is by adopting self-reliant ecological agriculture, wherein agro-diversity and lower investments in farming by low external dependency for inputs form the basis for reducing the risks involved in agriculture. “Mono-cropping of cotton and soybean and leaning towards the use of chemicals and GM seeds are increasing the vulnerability of farmers here – it is unfortunate that the highly successful experiences of hundreds of farmers who have adopted ecological farming are not being promoted by the government on a large scale here as the appropriate way of addressing the issue of farmers’ suicides”, he pointed out.

Vijay Jawandhia of Shetkari Sanghatan pointed out that free trade agreements were posing a great threat to farmers’ livelihoods and that the government should not proceed with business-as-usual despite evidence emerging to the contrary.

After the Nagpur outreach work, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra visited Bapu Kuti in Sevagram and paid homage to Gandhiji. Before that, a rally was taken out by the citizens of Wardha from Socialist Chowk to Magan Sangrahalay, where a meeting with farmers of crisis-ridden Vidarbha was held.

The Yatra will reach out to hundreds of farmers and consumers in Maharashtra before entering Goa on October 19th. Organisers announced that the Mumbai event on October 17th 2010 will have well-known Bollywood personalities like Mahesh Bhat and Rakeysh Mehra (of Rang de Basanti fame) joining the event. Members of ASHA exhorted the public to visit www.kisanswaraj.in and sign on the petition in the name of UPA Chairperson.

For more information, contact:

Datta Patil, YUVA: 09967024249
Aarti Pankharaj, YUVA: 09422460587
Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: 09393001550

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