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Vidarbha farmers, widows to 'mourn' decade of BT cotton

Maharashtra,Immigration/Law/Rights, Sun, 25 Mar 2012 IANS

Nagpur, March 25 (IANS) Thousands of farmers and farm widows shall 'mourn' and protest the tenth anniversary of the introduction of US-based GM Seed's revolutionary "BT Cotton" in the country Monday, an activist group said here Sunday.


"Tomorrow, thousands of farmers and farmland widows shall protest in various towns and villages across Vidarbha against BT Cotton, which failed in 400,000 hectares since 2005 and in 4.20 million hectares this year," Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishor Tiwari told IANS.


The VJAS has been fighting the cause of Maharashtra farmers opposed to BT cotton, which, Tiwari claimed is the root cause of farmers' suicides claiming over 10,000 lives so far in the state.


Farmers will gather in two of the worst suicide-prone villages - Hiwara and Bothbudan - demanding suspension of all commercial trials of BT Cotton in the dry regions of the Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra and banning GM cotton in the country.


"Vidarbha is a classic example of a wrong selection of GM technology in dry regions since BT Cotton requires proper irrigation facilities that are lacking here," Tiwari pointed out.


When the permission was granted by India ten years ago, experimental cultivation of BT cotton was started in 10,000 hectares in different parts of the country.


"Today, it has gone to over 12 million hectares, especially after Maharashtra permitted commercial cultivation trials of BT cotton from June 2005," said Tiwari.


He said the VJAS has demanded a special discussion by parliament on cotton farmers crises since the past ten years of BT cotton and setting up of a special parliamentary committee to inquire into the mess created by BT cotton.


In a report released Sunday, a group of NGOs under the banner of 'Coalition for GM-free India' has claimed that the government's own data proved that BT cotton has resulted in stagnant yields, pest resistance and evolution of new pest and disease attacks.


"The real yield gains in the past decade, from 278 kg/hectare to 470 kg/hectare was seen between 2001-2005 when BT cotton accounted for only 5.6 percent of the total cotton cultivation area. After that, till 2012, when the BT cotton area covered 90 percent of the total cotton cultivation area, the yield noticed was 470 kg/hectare to only 481 kg/hectare," Kiran Vissa, co-convenor of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said in the study report.


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