Several hundred farmers Monday sowed genetically modified Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton and brinjal in Maharashtra's Akola district in protest against the Union government's ban on their use in agriculture, a farm outfit functionary said. The sowing of HT Bt cotton and Bt brinjal was done over a two-acre area in Akoli Jahangir village in the district, said Shetkari Sanghatana spokesperson Lalit Bahale said.
The Shetkari Sanghatana had organised the protest as it was opposed to the ban on GM crops since they gave higher yields at lower costs and brought benefits to cultivators, Bahale said. "This satyagraha is a way to tell farmers to act against such restrictions in agriculture," Bahale said.
Meanwhile, Akola Agricultural Officer Arun Waghmare said samples of seeds sowed by the protesting farmers have been sent for lab analysis and further action would be taken once the reports come in. The use of GM crops in the country is tightly regulated as per "Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989" under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
As per the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, the evaluation of each application of GM crop is done on a case-to-case basis after a thorough examination of health, environment, food and feed safety assessment studies. The data on GM crops is reviewed at every step by various statutory committees such as the Institutional Biosafety Committee, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the ministry has maintained.
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