Vested foreign interests opposing GM crops: Pawar

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, a known proponent of genetically modified crops, has blamed the ubiquitous 'foreign hand' for fomenting the controversy over GM crops like cotton and soya bean.

He said in comments over the weekend that the fact that lobbies in the United States could be funding campaigns in India against GM crops, especially in soyabean, to protect the interests of large seed and oil exporters. He said he suspected that multinational corporations that would be hit hard could be funding campaigns against GM soya crop in India.

Pawar said it is an irony that some countries selling India edible oil extracted from genetically modified soybean are supporting the anti-GM lobbies here.

"India is a major importer of edible oils. We spend to the tune of Rs60,000 crore on edible oil imports. Of this, soya oil is a big chunk. If soya GM crop is taken up on a large scale in India, its output and that of oil extracted from it would increase considerably and at some time exports may not be required," said Pawar.

Similarly, he discounted opposition to Bt cotton, saying this appeared only in media. "If Bt cotton crop was not good, why would 92 per cent of cotton growers switch over to it of their own volition," asked Pawar, noting that cotton crop last year was remarkable.

He made these remarks at the Vidarbha Economic Development Council, a voluntary industry group, and repeated it this morning during an interaction with journalists in Nagpur.