GM crops will impact food security, fear farmers

Proponents of natural and organic farming, and progressive activists, have cautioned against permitting commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops saying that it will have a negative impact on the food security of the country as farmers will lose seed sovereignty.

The issue came to the fore in view of the impending clearance of the commercial production of GM mustard by the Centre and a public interaction on the subject here on Sunday.

Kailashmurthy, a farmer, told The Hindu that Karnataka is one of the few States in the country to have a policy on organic farming and hence it should take a stance against GM mustard as a matter or principle.

“I have been following natural farming and believe it is the way forward as the cost of cultivation is negligible, income and production is high, helps in biodiversity conservation, maintenance of soil fertility and is hence environment-friendly besides ensuring my freedom to cultivate the variety I want,” he added.

Mr. Kailashmurthy cautioned that once farmers lose seed sovereignty they will be at the mercy of multinational corporations (MNCs) and will be forced to cultivate the crops for which the seeds are available and this will have a bearing on India’s food security.

Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddha, an organisation promoting chemical-free farming, said that there are issues regarding loss of biodiversity, environment, food security and farmers coming under the clutches of MNCs if the GM crops are promoted. “We have already witnessed how cotton cultivators are now under the clutches of the MNCs. What has already come true in case of cotton will come true with regard to other GM crops as well and hence should be opposed,” he added. Vast swathes of H.D. Kote in Mysuru district was under organic cotton and indigenous cotton till a few years ago. But over time it has been supplanted by Bt cotton. This has not only supplanted the indigenous cotton variety but has also resulted in native cotton seeds disappearing from the market. Farmers are thus forced to procure them from MNCs who, reportedly, manipulate prices.

Statistics indicate that cotton cultivation is the highest in H.D. Kote accounting for almost 65% of the total cultivation in the district.

As against nearly 48,000 hectares under cotton cultivation in 2014-15, H.D. Kote has 31,000 hectares now and more than 95% are under Bt cotton.