Maharashtra: Farmer’s body flouts GM seed rule and plants brinjal variant

Shektari Sanghtana, a farmers’ organization formed by the late Sharad Joshi, openly planted the unauthorized genetically modified (GM) variant of brinjal on Thursday. The event, which took place in the Shrigonda taluka of Ahmednagar district, saw farmers displaying BT brinjal seeds that the organization had purchased from them.

Since 2019, the farmers’ body has publicly flouted the rules by planting unauthorized GM variants of cottonseed, brinjal and mustard. The Sanghtana said seeds are available at a higher rate than normal, but farmers often end up being duped by night operators. He said access to technology is a basic right and farmers should be allowed access to the latest technology for their farming practices.

Indian laws do not allow commercial planting of unapproved GM variants, although farmers claim that these variants have several advantages over normal commercially available variants. To date, India has only allowed the commercial introduction of BT cotton and this genetically modified crop has managed to cover nearly 99% of the country’s cotton fields.

The organization has stepped up its demand for the introduction of HT BT cotton (the next generation of BT cotton), which it says will help solve the labor problem facing the sector. The Sanghatana claimed that more than 40% of Maharashtra’s cotton is now under the unauthorized HT-BT.

Seed industry sources claim that out of the 4-4.5 crore seed packets needed for the Kharif season, around 60-65 lakh packets are of the unauthorized hybrid variant.

Anil Ghanwat, chairman of Shektari Sanghtana said they will continue their agitation until the government allows GM crops. “All over the world, GM crops are allowed. All we are asking is for the government to allow the technology in India,” he said.

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