Deccan Herald, 20 July 2011
Agriculture Minister Umesh Katti has declared that the Government will not allow trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the State of of Karnataka, India.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Bangalore, the Minister said Karnataka had opposed Bt brinjal, and if media reports on Bt maize and Bt paddy trials in Bijapur and Koppal were true, the Government would oppose them as well.
Katti said the State is firmly opposed to testing, research or field trials of GM crops.
Officials of the Agriculture Department who have been asked to look into the allegations of the trials being conducted, would submit a report in a day or two. In case trials have been conducted, notices would be served to the parties concerned.
Companies and universities that obtain permission from the Centre to conduct the trials, have to inform the State Government as well.
“However, till date, no company has informed us about conducting trials. We will also request the Centre not to allow trials in Karnataka,” Katti said.
Katti’s remarks assume significance in the wake of reports of some agriculture varsities being keen on conducting GM crop trials, while farmers’ associations and activists are opposing them.
Chief Secretary S V Ranganath cancelled a meeting he had convened on July 20 at Vidhana Soudha to discuss requests from University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, Association of Bio-tech Led Enterprises – Agricutlure Group (ABLE-AG) and other agencies seeking No Objection Certificate from the State government for undertaking trial and research on biosafety evaluation of GM crops.
Prof Basavaraj V Patil, vice chancellor, Agricultural University, Raichur, who was supposed to attend the meeting, told Deccan Herald that the varsity was only trying to conduct Bt maize trials in association with Monsanto.
Herbicide-tolerant maize has been proved as a successful crop and the university wanted to conducted trials in a small field.
Patil claimed that cultivating Bt cotton has proved to be beneficial for farmers in India. Cotton production has gone up from 225 lakh bales to 350 lakh bales.
As much as 20 lakh bales were exported last year, he said. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body constituted under the Ministry of Forests and Environment, had received complaints that Monsanto had carried out experimental seed production of maize in Bijapur. Following this, GEAC, on July 6, asked the State to inspect the site and send a report.
Krishna Prasad, convenor of GM Free Karnataka, had written to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa that Monsanto had carried out GM trials in Bijapur which forced GEAC to seek details from the State. GM crops are widely believed to affect food and environment safety.