October 21, 2010: On the twentieth day after it set off at Sabarmati Ashram, Kisan Swaraj Yatra reached Dharwad town from Goa, to register a protest against appropriation of farmers’ varieties by seed corporations. This occasion was also used to strike a dialogue with the University, represented by the Registrar and other senior officials/scientists. Hundreds of farmers who assembled at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad) said that the University should stop all toxic technologies, should stop siding with big corporations like Monsanto and Mahyco and protect farmers’ varieties.

“Farmers’ varieties like Mattu Gulla (which has recently received a GI status) and Agasaim variety of Goa have been given to Mahyco by the University to convert them into Bt Brinjal varieties – the company has obtained a patent on the Bt Brinjal “event” (EE1) that has been inserted into these traditional varieties that the University has received from farming communities. Who does this Bt Brinjal belong to now?”, asked Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, President, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

To highlight the jeopardy that native brinjal varieties will face with the onslaught of GM versions and to highlight the need to conserve invaluable diversity in crops like brinjal, a brinjal diversity mela was also organized inside the University. Villagers from Mattu village in Udupi district, who successfully registered their unique variety of brinjal under Geographical Indication Act (GI) articulated their concerns against Bt Brinjal.

As part of a day-long event, there was a “UAS-Dharwad Sadbuddhi Yagna” performed, with the protestors praying for good sense to prevail on the technocrats/scientists of the University so that they may take up pro-farmer agriculture research mandates and stop siding with MNCs keen on grabbing farmers’ resources and profiteering through marketing at the expense of farmers.

The protestors demanded that the University stop taking up GM crop trials immediately given that there is constantly-emerging scientific proof on the adverse effects of GM crops on our health and environment. They pointed out that official data on pesticide-usage monitoring in cotton from Karnataka shows how insecticide usage is actually going up and how CICR’s 2-year evaluation of Bt Cotton hybrids in South India shows that yields of lint cotton in a majority of Bt Cotton hybrids are lower than non-Bt Cotton hybrids. “Why are the benefits of GM crops being exaggerated when official data here and there is clearly pointing to no such benefits at all and scientific studies are pointing to adverse effects and why is the University steamrollering ahead with GM crop development despite all the evidence against such seed and despite evidence on the success of ecological approaches?”, said Krishna Prasad of Sahaja Samruddha, speaking on the occasion.

The earlier day, on October 20th, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra obtained an assurance from the Directorate of Agriculture at Margao Farm in Goa that the Krishi Vigyan Kendra there is not keen on taking up Bt Brinjal trials any more.

Mr Ananth Hegde, Chairman of Western Ghats Task Force assured the gathering in Dharwad that the government is keen on promoting organic farming and self-reliance in agriculture for farmers and that it has taken a considered view against Bt Brinjal and communicated the same to the Union Government.

The Registrar of UAS-Dharwad, Dr Vijay Kumar, assured the farmers assembled that the University will continue this dialogue with farmers, to take up research that is for the benefit of farmers.

The ‘Kisan Swaraj Yatra’ is an outreach effort from Sabarmati to Rajghat (from October 2nd to December 11th) and a call to join forces to save Indian farming and farmers, to promote self-reliant farming and has entered Karnataka on the 21st of October, after taking up meetings, debates, protests and media outreach work in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Members of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) urged citizens to visit www.kisanswaraj.in and send an online petition to the UPA Chairperson, asking her to recast agricultural policies in favour of farmers.

For more information, contact:

Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, KRRS: 098-442-93908
Krishna Prasad, Sahaja Samruddha: 098-808-62058
Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: 093-930-01550

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