Agri-biotechnology Agriculture Policy Bt cotton

Order Setting Aside Bt Cottonseed Patents was Political Decision, Says SJM’s Ashwani Mahajan

Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Photo by Vivian Fernandes

The co-convenor explains to Vivian Fernandes why the Manch, which champions national self-reliance, is opposed to GM mustard even though it has been developed wholly with indigenous effort and money.

The co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, says it is opposed to genetically-modified (GM) mustard even though it is indigenously developed by scientists of Delhi University South Campus with funding from public agencies like the National Dairy Development Board and the Department of Biotechnology because ‘we are opposed to GM technology per se.’

Giving SJM’s stance the burnish of high principle, Ashwani Mahajan cited an analogy. SJM, he said, had extended its opposition of foreign direct investment in retailing to Mukesh Dhirbhai Ambani group entering the sector because its flagship company, ‘Reliance acts in the same way as MNCs (multinational corporations).’

The SJM was wedged into the position on GM technology, though ‘we support technology development, agricultural development and national development,’ because ‘we oppose monopolization in agriculture.’

‘From the beginning SJM has been opposing IPRs (intellectual property rights) in seeds and bringing it to the WTO (World Trade Organization) as a trade-related issue,’ Mahajan asserted. The group had to step in, like other civil society groups, when government leaders signed treaties like TRIPS (which came into force from 1995)  which compromised the national interest. Even the English language of the treaties was ‘imported wholesale, it was not Indian.’

Mahajan was surprised that the May 18 guidelines which virtually set aside patents on Bt cottonseed were being opposed. ‘This is a political decision,’ he said.  ‘It was not taken keeping companies in mind or industry in mind, but national interest in mind. I congratulate India government and the ministry of agriculture,’

In Mahajan’s view, once an order is issued, it becomes law and a government is bound constitutionally to abide by it. If it is bad in law, the aggrieved parties can move courts.  He was of the conviction that GM technology is unsafe because it has ‘so many unresolved issues,’ that ‘we are against even holding field trials.’ India’s regulatory mechanism was lacking in oversight and he quoted the Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court (five of six of whom are known GM-baiters) in support.

For Mahajan, the development of pink bollworm’s resistance to Bt cottonseed in some pockets of the country, was vindication of SJM’s prescience. The country’s experience with Bt cotton has not been good, he added. (The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences in its policy brief of 1 August, 2016 ‘to accelerate utilization of GE technology for food and nutrition security… says Bt cotton ‘helped in transforming India’s farm economy’ as ‘cotton production jumped from 13 million bales in 2002 to 39 million bales in 2014-15, becoming the largest producer of cotton, ahead of China and the US.’ – editor).

(Top photo of Ashwani Mahajan by Vivian Fernandes)

 

Email This Page

Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Kallanagouda PatilY Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

RudagiF Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?