It is too early to be concerned about this, says Veerapandi Arumugam
State follows protocol set by Union Environment MinistryFarmers threaten mass movement against the crops
CHENNAI: With farmers all over the State threatening a "war unto the finish" against genetically engineered crops, the State Government on Thursday said it had an "open mind" on the issue and would allow the crops only if they were proved to have no demonstrable side effects.
"The company [Monsanto-Mahyco] approached us with a request to test the crops. The trial is only in the research phase now and the results will be sent to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and, later, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, to decide if the crops are harmful to farmers or not. We will go by whatever the committee decides. If the council gives a negative report, we will not allow cultivation in the State," Agriculture Minister Veerapandi Arumugam told The Hindu .
Pointing out that earlier, when BT cotton made its entry into the State, farmers had the same apprehensions which the then government had allayed, Mr. Arumugam said the Government was keen on ensuring that the GE crops would not pose any threat to traditional crop varieties. "We are open to talk with farmers' associations. It is too early to be concerned about this."
"The State follows the protocol [on GE crop cultivation] set by the Union Ministry of Environment. While farmers can bring protocol violations to the notice of authorities, we cannot block such transfers of technology. The trials have been done in a transparent manner and the State cannot intensively promote agriculture through prevalent technologies alone without updating them," a top government official said.
Farmers' representatives, however, are unwilling to buy the argument and insist they will take the warpath if trials are allowed to continue. "The issue of whether GE crops can be allowed in the State cannot be decided by officials or scientists alone, without taking farmers' livelihoods into account. We do not oppose technology per se as we have already adapted to the cultivation of hybrid crops strains. GE crops, however, will land us in a vicious circle of debt and penury, as seen in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. We will try to impress upon the Government the urgency of the situation, failing which we will launch a mass movement against the crops," said V. Durai Manickam, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association.