Maharashtra farmers to defy ban on GM brinjal and cotton seeds

Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ body in Maharashtra, said on Sunday it would sow seeds of genetically modified (GM) brinjal and cotton in a village in Akola district on Monday as a mark of protest against the government’s ban on GM crops.

Around 5,000 farmers under the aegis of the organisation are expected to gather in Akoli Jahangir village to plant the transgenic varieties, its State president Anil Ghanwat said.
"It will be a peaceful protest. We will only plant the varieties in the fields. But there is a possibility that the police may arrest us because the cultivation of these varieties crops is banned," he said
The Shetkari Sanghatana is opposed to the ban on GM crops as they are beneficial to farmers, its spokesperson Lalit Bahale said.
“Genetically modified seeds are being used all over the world and we have seen that the costs are less, pest attacks are fewer and the yields are higher,” he added.
India had banned the cultivation of Bt brinjal in 2010. However, the genetically modified (GM) crop still finds its way in to the fields through illegal supply of seeds.
On 25 April  2019, activists from the Coalition for GM-Free India — a network of organisations working against the GM crop since 2006 — cited the example of a farmer from Haryana’s Fatehabad who allegedly was cultivating the GM crop for a couple of years now.  Complaints to the GEAC went unanswered. 
Last month, the Haryana government had uprooted GM brinjal plants from a farm in Fatehabad district.
“Whilst the Haryana state government authorities have been investigating Bt brinjal illegal cultivation, events have come to such a head that it demands your inputs for action on a national scale, none of which is visible…,” Rajesh Krishnan, on behalf of the Coalition, wrote to the Chairperson of GEAC, in a letter.
Citing various media reports, he stated that now a set of farmers are planning to illegally sow Bt brinjal and herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds in Akoli Jahangir village, Akola district in Maharashtra on June 10, 2019.  The cultivation would be done on a wide scale in Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra, the reports claim.
However, despite being repeatedly apprised of illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal in Haryana, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has not taken any action against the seed supplier or those involved in the supply chain, activists allege.