Poultry breeders pitch for import of GM maize

The maize proposed to be imported by State trading enterprises, in the wake of the scarcity of indigenously grown maize, will cost at least ₹23,500 per tonne.  

Poultry farmers and breeders in Karnataka, who are facing a shortage of indigenously grown maize to feed broiler chickens, have made a pitch for import of genetically modified (GM) maize to tide over the crisis.

Their request to the authorities for permission to import GM maize comes after realising that they will not only have to wait till mid-October for delivery of non-GM maize imported by State Trading Enterprises, but will also have to pay a steep price for the same.

Maize, which is one the chief sources of feed for the broilers, was available at a cost of ₹17,000 per tonne last year. But, the maize proposed to be imported by State trading enterprises like National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC) in the wake of the scarcity of indigenously grown maize, whose yield had been severely compromised by pest attacks and drought, will cost them at least ₹23,500 per tonne.

Also, since it is off-season in some countries like Ukraine that grow non-GM maize, the imported maize will be delivered to them only after mid-October this year, which is barely a fortnight before the next crop of locally grown maize is ready for harvesting in the first week of November.

With GM maize available in abundance globally at a relatively cheaper cost, the Karnataka Poultry Farmers and Breeders’ Association (KPFBA) has written to MMTC to obtain permission from the Centre to allow import of GM maize.

In the letter to MMTC, the KPFBA has assured to use GM maize only for poultry feed. “It will not be used for sowing or human consumption,” KPFBA Executive Secretary Inayathulla Khan said in the letter.

When The Hindu contacted Unnikrishnan, MD, MMTC, in New Delhi, he said any decision in the matter of permitting import GM maize had to be taken by Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and not MMTC.

An official from the office of Additional Director General of Foreign Trade in Bengaluru said State trading enterprises are allowed to import only non-GM feed grade maize.

According to the general notes on import policy available on DGFT website, the import of any food, feed, raw or processed or any ingredient of food, food additives or any food product that contains GM material and is being used either for industrial production, environmental release or field application will be allowed only with the approval of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

U.S. chicken in India

Justifying its demand for GM maize, the poultry industry said India has already permitted import of chicken from the U.S., where the birds are fed on GM maize and soya.

India began allowing import of chicken from the U.S. after a ruling to the effect at World Trade Organization (WTO). The poultry industry in Bengaluru has questioned how different it is to allow import of feed grade GM maize when the country has already permitted the import of U.S. chicken that is bred on GM maize and soya.

Also, the residue from GM cottonseed oil has long been used as a feed for not only chicken, but also cattle and fish, the industry argued.

Activists oppose move

Meanwhile, the poultry industry’s call has been opposed by activists engaged in keeping India free of GM food.

Kavita Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture told The Hindu that the adverse health impact on animals bred on GM food should serve as an early warning to people on consuming chicken fed with GM maize.

While asking for a study of consumption patterns of maize that is also used by starch producers, Ms. Kuruganti said there was already evidence to suggest that ‘backyard’ rearing of chicken was far better than the practices adopted by the commercial poultry industry.

Meanwhile, Krishna Prasad, Director, Sahaja Samrudha, an organic farmers’ collective operating across Karnataka, said the poultry industry’s demand for importing GM maize not only poses a threat to chicken consumers, but also the maize farmers.

Mr. Prasad, also an anti-GM crusader, argued that the import of GM maize will lead to a slump in demand for indigenously grown maize, which will in turn affect maize farmers, who are found in large numbers across the State, particularly in Mysuru and Chamarajnagar regions.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 12:46:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/poultry-breeders-pitch-for-import-of-gm-maize/article29225179.ece

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