NATIONAL

Gujarat says ‘no' to ban on distribution of Monsanto hybrid maize seed

‘State does not distribute seeds, it only certifies for distribution'

Despite opposition from various quarters, including the agricultural experts and the farmers' organisations, the Gujarat government has refused to impose a total ban on distribution of the Monsanto hybrid maize seed named “Prabal” to the farmers in the State, particularly the tribal agriculturists.

An announcement by the State Agriculture Minister Dillip Sanghani to the effect that the government had “stopped” distributing the controversial Monsanto seeds was described by a senior official of the department as “political,” driven by the strong opposition to the Prabal project by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh(BKS), the farmers' wing of the ruling BJP in the State.

“The State government does not distribute seeds, it only certifies for distribution, and therefore there is no question of stopping the distribution,” the official said. He said the State government had not taken any decision to “ban” the distribution of Monsanto seeds, but it had only decided to allow distribution of other varieties of seeds also along with Prabal if farmers chose it.

He said the farmers were free to choose any variety of seeds suitable for their lands and the subsidy allowed under the rules would be provided to them, including the Monsanto seeds. In case of the tribal farmers, the subsidy was cent per cent for the seeds and that was applicable also for the Monsanto variety, the official said.

The State government had been distributing Prabal, the hybrid maize seeds developed by the American multi-national company Monsanto, to the tribal farmers since 2008. The agricultural scientists and experts, however, maintain that Prabal, which required more water and fertilizers than other varieties and needed deep soil, was not suitable for the usually dry and rain-fed areas like Gujarat, and particularly for the poor tribal farmers.

Campaign

The BKS along with Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and various other voluntary organisations had launched a campaign in the State against the distribution of the Monsanto seeds by the State government to the farmers, particularly in the tribal areas. There had been allegations in the past that the American seeds giant could muscle its way through to force the farmers in various parts of the country to accept seeds even if they are not suitable to the Indian conditions.

The official, however, pointed out that the State Agriculture Department had very little role to play in the field and it had no authority to ban the Monsanto seeds as it had been certified by the Central government in accordance with the Seeds Act. Any action to ban distribution of Monsanto seeds would have to be taken by the centre and not the state government, he said.

The official said on its part the State government did not promote the Monsanto seeds in the usually dry areas, particularly in the tribal belt of the Panchamahals and Dahod districts in central Gujarat where perennial irrigation facilities were not available. The official pointed out that Gujarat comparatively was only a small user of the Prabal seeds, considering that the maize production in the State was just about two per cent of the country's total production. Any campaign against Monsanto needed to be launched in States like Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa some other states where the usage was much more than in Gujarat, the official claimed.





Experts feel Prabal not suitable for dry and

rain-fed areas like Gujarat

State has no authority to ban Monsanto seeds

as it has been certified by Centre


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