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Drive against genetically-engineered rice

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IN PROTEST: The activists of the Tamizhaga Velan Kappu Kuzhu uprooting a paddy crop raised using genetically modified seeds at a trial field in Alandurai near Coimbatore on Friday. Photo: M. Periasamy
IN PROTEST: The activists of the Tamizhaga Velan Kappu Kuzhu uprooting a paddy crop raised using genetically modified seeds at a trial field in Alandurai near Coimbatore on Friday. Photo: M. Periasamy

Staff Reporter

Activists allege firm tried to introduce hybrid seeds from overseas "These hybrid seeds after one yield become infertile and ruin soil quality"

Coimbatore: Hundreds of activists owing affiliation to various associations conducted a drive against genetically-engineered (GE) paddy crop on a trial field in Ramanathapuram village at Alandurai, about 30 km from here, on Friday.

The activists alleged that a firm dealing with hybrid seeds with an overseas tie-up had taken 10 fields across the country for field trials to introduce hybrid genetically-engineered seed varieties from overseas.

Besides volunteers of Tamizhaga Velan Kappu Kuzhu and Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association, Uzhavar Uzhaippalar Katchi president K. Sellamuthu, and Tamil Nadu Green Movement president V. Jeevanandam also joined the agitation.

The activists entered a farm where the firm had allegedly made a field trial of Bt.Rice (Bt Cry 1 Ac rice). It had reportedly taken two acres on lease from the farmer and without his knowledge it had done the field trial of this rice variety on 20 cents, they alleged. Citing the experiences in the Bt.Cotton, they said the farmers were lured with high yield and profits. But the claims were proved wrong resulting in a number of cotton growers in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra committing suicide owing to debts. To ensure high immunity rate, during genetic modification the seeds firm was injecting a very virulent virus that even killed the crop-friendly bacteria and unharmful pests. "These hybrid seeds after one yield become infertile and also ruin soil quality," they alleged.

In addition, these seeds, over a period of time, would spoil conventional paddy seed varieties of Indian origin. Thus the seed firm was trying make the Indian farming community bank on it for inputs every time at a huge cost. Hence it became imperative for the activists to create awareness against such genetically-modified seeds. They cautioned that genetically-engineered crops were a big threat to environment and bio-diversity. There was not even a signboard to caution people to keep themselves and the cattle away.

The activists also alleged that the firm was trying to propagate these seeds in respect of brinjal, tomato and maize. They entered the field with masks and hand gloves and uprooted the matured paddy crop. They planted a banner declaring the plot a GE rice field trial location. They also placed bio-hazard signposts along the plot and demarcated the area with danger sign tapes. They said the crops should be burnt as required under Environment Protection Act of 1986.

The Alandurai Police on Saturday registered a case against the president of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association K. Chellamuthu, his party secretary and 88 others on charges of trespassing and causing damage to crops.

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