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Centre & State Approved Confined Trials of GM Cotton and Maize

GM Cotton seed trial will assess resistance to bollworm and tobacco cutworm, while the maize trial will assess resistance to fall armyworm. Both trials involve the use of glyphosate, a widely used weed killer that has been linked to biodiversity loss.

Shivam Dwivedi
Cotton
Cotton

The state and the Centre have approved a proposal to conduct confined field trials of genetically modified (GM) and herbicide-tolerant cotton and maize seeds at two Karnataka universities of agricultural sciences (UAS). Farmers and activists have expressed concerns about the impact of such crops on the environment and indigenous seed culture, prompting the approval.

Following the Karnataka government's no-objection certificate (NoC), the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change approved the proposal by Rallis India Limited, Bengaluru. The completion of confined field trials will assist companies in moving closer to commercializing the seeds.

The company has been granted permission to conduct trials at UAS, Raichur, and Dharwad for a period of two years, from 2022-23 to 2023-24. "The NoC decision was made by a high-level committee led by the chief secretary and comprised of experts." "The heads of the agriculture universities that participated in the programme supported the trials," a committee member told DH.

The GM Cotton seed trial will assess resistance to bollworm and tobacco cutworm, while the maize trial will assess resistance to fall armyworm. Both trials involve the use of glyphosate, a widely used weed killer that has been linked to biodiversity loss. The proposal was recommended with several conditions, ranging from the trial site selection to the amount of glyphosate to be used.

According to Dharwad UAS Vice Chancellor K N Kattimani, there will be no negative impact on farmers. "All projects are decided by the varsity's board. "At no point will the farmers' interests be jeopardized," he assured. Karnataka's decision, according to Kavita Kuruganti, founder and convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), was an unfortunate step. "Karnataka, as one of the first states to develop an organic farming policy, should not have issued an NoC."

The government is now introducing risk into its agricultural system. It is worth noting that both crops are herbicide-tolerant. Glyphosate has been shown to be environmentally hazardous. "We demand that Karnataka revoke the NoC," she stated. Raichur, a senior faculty member at UAS, stated that the confined field trials follow strict guidelines. "It will be done on a piece of land under the control of the university, usually not more than half an acre." "Scientists will strictly monitor the entire trial and submit reports," he said.

T N Prakash Kammaradi, an agroeconomist and former Agriculture Price Commission chairman, believes that GM crops are Trojan horses used by corporations to gain market dominance at the expense of local and indigenous seeds. "The example of Bt cotton eradicating indigenous and hybrid seeds is still fresh in our minds.

"Furthermore, can the government control the amount of herbicide sprayed by farmers once the seeds are sold commercially?" he inquired. The problems were acknowledged by the senior faculty. "In fact, one committee member pointed out that we have yet to exploit all hybrid varieties. Pest resistance, on the other hand, has become a trump card for GM crops," he added.

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