By Syed Akbar
"Bt Cotton is symbolic of the trap that genetically engineered crops are laying around the food sovereignty in Africa and Asia as well as the USA," argue experts on environment and genetics.
The experts were participating in a media event organised by the Deccan Development Society as a precursor to the Side Event called Bt Cotton Web Around Food, Farming and Livestock Systems: Continental Perspectives From Africa and Asia as part of the CBD COP 11.
Painting the context, Mr P V Satheesh, Director, Deccan Development Society and National Convenor, Southern Action on Genetic Engineering [SAGE] referred to the crisis of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh itself wherein 30% of food production areas have been occupied by Bt Cotton in the last ten years. This was symptomatic of a trend of the domination of GM Crops over food crops which eventually would drive out all ecological, organic and safe foods produced by communities in India in order to achieve their food sovereignty.
Mr Satheesh pointed to the various recent happenings starting from the Indo US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture to the recent FDI in retail as a sequence very well designed and crafted to subordinate India’s food sovereignty to the global agrochemical MNCs. The fact that the KIA Board had Walmart, Monsanto and the Archer Daniel Midlands alongside the Confederation of Indian Industry in it was no accident but a carefully executed strategy to keep farmers out of food production and hand it over to the industry. GM crops would be the final tool of the agro industry to accomplish it, he said and pointed to the efforts to rubbish the recent report of the Parliamentary Committee which had rejected the need to even conduct field trials on GM crops and had declared that they were not needed for the food security of India.
Ultimately the faulty policies government which is in cahoots with the international agribusiness such as Walmart and Monsanto, will turn India into a net food importing country, he said.
Endorsing Mr Satheesh’s views Dr Nammalwar the reputed organic farming expert from Tamil Nadu and the Chairman of the Vanagam Foundation, accused the government of being totally blind to the repeated failures of Bt Cotton in Tamil Nadu and serving the industry interests. Most millet areas are getting converted into Bt Cotton producing lands which in turn has badly impacted the food and fodder production. Cattle rearing in the absence of fodder was becoming unviable, forcing the farmers to drive their animals into slaughterhouse and depend upon chemical fertilisers for their farming. This vicious cycle is very difficult to be halted and farmers will be inexorably driven to the production of Bt Cotton, Bt Corn and other crops, he said.
Dr Francis Moore Lappe of the USA, a writer-researcher and the winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize referred to the spread of GM crops in the USA and said that this had resulted in the loss of biodiversity, family farms and the nation’s health.