GM corn trials in Kolhapur stopped

0 / Express News Service
April 3, 2009

Pune: MPKV farm is one of three such sites in India

The Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) said it has decided to stop genetically modified (GM) crop trials for corn at its fields in Kolhapur. The trails began in December 2008 and MPKV land in Kolhapur was one of the three plots for GM corn, selected by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and sponsored by the US-based Monsanto. The other two locations are Samasvati (Bihar) and Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) and field trials are continuing in these locations.

The decision to stop the trials followed protests by farmers questioning the safety and sanctity of the open-air transgenic trials. In a decision taken on Thursday in Pune, the university also said transgenic trials will no longer be conducted on its land.

When contacted, Rajaram Deshmukh, vice-chancellor of MPKV, said the GM corn trails for this year were already over and the data had been sent. “As is the procedure, we will burn the trial plot. However, we will not allow the trails next year,” he said.

On March 23, farmers led by former state minister N D Patil, leader of Peasants and Workers Party, staged a dharna at MPKV’s Kolhapur farm, where the trails were being conducted.

“Agriculture is a state subject. The MPKV told us that the decision to go ahead with the trails was a decision taken at the behest of the ICAR. But it should have been cleared at the state level. This has not happened because there is no state biotechnology coordination committee or a district-level committee,” Patil told the media here on Thursday.

Following protests, an inquiry committee led by Patil was set up. The members included Rajesh Krishnan (Greenpeace India), Kavita Kurunganti (Kheti Virasat Mission) and Dilip Deshmukh (Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation), among others.

“We raised questions on what kind of assessment was done with regard to GM corn; whether bio-safety issues, health hazards or environmental implications were taken into consideration, whether Environment Protection Act rules were followed, what process of decision making was followed by the Government before allowing these trails to take place. The MPKV is accountable for farmers here — did they consider their needs before accepting this trial,” Patil said.

The inquiry committee members have also raised the contamination caused by BT Rice trials in Jharkhand in February despite claims of protocols laid down by authorities.

A public interest litigation is pending in the Supreme Court, which asks for a moratorium of a few years on the sale of genetically-modified seeds and the approval of GM crops.

“Following the filing of the PIL, the SC posted molecular biologist Pushpa Bhargava as a member at the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and he has written recently to the Prime Minister calling attention to the dangers of virtually unchecked approval of GM crops in the country, that is serving the interest of multinational companies such as Monsanto. He has called for the setting up of a Government laboratory to carry out the necessary tests and to verify the results of the companies,” Patil said.

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