New GM cotton variety will add to vidarbha farmers’ woes
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Nagpur: An aggressive sales blitz launched by Bt cotton manufacturers is causing concern among agriculture activists. They are of the firm view that genetically modified cotton seeds, being sold at exorbitant rates with claims of a bumper crop, have resulted in peaking of the distress, forcing over 2,000 farmers to commit suicide in the last two years. Interestingly, multinational Monsanto, which has a tieup with state-run seeds company along with some other private companies, has come out with Bollguard II brand of Bt cotton seeds. A massive campaign launched by the company claims that the new seed variety would give a yield of at least 11 quintals an acre, much more than Bollguard that they claimed gave yield of nine quintals per acre. However, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari has alleged that Monsanto’s claims were exaggerated and unrealistic. Government officials have claimed that average yield in Vidarbha is around 3 quintal per acre even after Bt cotton has been used last year by an estimated 65 per cent farmers in the region. “Even Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has said in the Parliament that Bt cotton cultivation was not advisable in non-irrigated, rain-fed belt of Vidarbha. But there is no effort from the state government to dissuade farmers from using Bt seeds,” said Tiwari. Amravati divisional commissioner Sudhir Goyal, who also heads the Vasantrao Naik Mission that implements the PM’s as well as the state’s special relief packages for cotton growers in six worst-hit districts of Vidarbha, was not available for comment. What is agitating the activists is the high price of the new Bt cotton variety. It is priced at Rs 1370 per pack of 450 gm while the old brand is sold at Rs 750 per pack. But the new one comes with promise of better yield and profits of Rs 17000 per acre. More shocking is that a new set of two pesticides are recommended for use with Bollgaurd II, both are priced double that of the pesticides used with earlier Bt brand of the company. With the seed dealers willing to give credit for the new variety, there is fear that the Bt cultivation may go up to 90 per cent this time. “What is more appalling is that the state government has already paid over Rs 200 crore per year in the last two years to compensate for loss of crop in cotton growing areas. Is that not a subsidy by back door to the multinational which is selling seeds in Vidarbha despite farmers bearing brunt of poor yields,” asked Tiwari.
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