Protest against Agriculture Director, Orissa's statement seeking to introduce Bt Cotton into Orissa. sign now

The Honble Agriculture Minister,
Orissa State,
Orissa INDIA.

Dear Sir,

We the conscious Citizen and right thinking public strictly condemn the statement of Agriculture Director, Orissa, seeking the introduction of Bt Cotton into the State. We also wish to emphatically state that we oppose the entry of any kind of GM crop. We have now understood that GM crops will only increase the problems in agriculture and the plight of the farmers of our State.

As per available statistics 57\% of the farmers of Orissa are marginal, while 28\% are small farmers. What this essentially means is that 85\% of the farmers are directly dependant on agriculture for their food and livelihood. Statistics also reveal with each passing year more and more agricultural and forest land are being converted into land for industrialisation, mining, roads, bridges etc in the name of development. This has had a direct effect on food production which is showing a decreasing trend. Land under food production like millets is reducing by the day while more land is being devoted to cash crops like spices, fruits, flowers, and cotton. Under these circumstances the introduction of Bt Cotton is fraught with grave danger.

In the year 2002, 29,000 ha was under cotton cultivation which increased to 59,000 ha by 2005, i.e. an increase of 30,000 ha within just three years! In the year 2005-06 more than 20,000 ha each in Kalahandi and Bolangir and more than 15,000 ha in Rayagada district has been brought under cotton cultivation. There is no incentive to increase land under cultivation for food crops. Thus, under adverse circumstances, the farmers have nothing to fall back upon leading to increased frustration and indebtedness.

We do not understand how the Government can contemplate giving more emphasis on cotton cultivation by bringing in Bt Cotton which has heaped untold misery on farmers in our neighbouring States.

We have received the information that agricultural institution (OUAT) of our state have, under the stewardship of various seed companies, conducted field trials of Bt Cotton in the fields of 26 farmers in the districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir & Rayagada since 2002. There is evidence of illegal sale of Bt Cotton seeds in Orissa by M/s Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. Bt Cotton thus cultivated does not reflect in Government statistics. There is therefore no information about where such cultivation has been done, the farmers involved and the impact of such cultivation on the farmer, concerned village and the environment.

However we know from the experiences of farmers who have cultivated Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana that such production of Bt Cotton;

1. Led to various health problems in farmers and farm workers like rashes, itching, swellings, redness & watering of eyes etc.
2. Increased use of pesticides due to resurgence of secondary pests.
3. Have been subject to damage due to pest attacks.
4. Rising indebtedness among farmers leading to instances of farmer suicides.
5. In Andhra Pradesh, cattle & sheep grazing in Bt Cotton fields have died in large numbers. The Govt of Andhra Pradesh has recognised this and advised farmers to keep livestock away from Bt Cotton fields.
6. In Punjab, the milk yield from cattle has come down after they have been fed Bt Cotton fodder and cotton oil cakes. This phenomenon is now being studied by scientists.

We think the above examples are sufficient to oppose Bt Cotton.

We are aware that Bt Cotton is only the beginning. The Government and the scientists are ready to follow up with GM Rice and Bt Brinjal. However concerned scientists have already issued warnings that the effects of such technology on the health of humans and ecosystems may be unpredictable and dangerous. This will also lead to loss of our hold on traditional seeds and make us fully dependant on seed companies. Needless to say such a situation will have a direct bearing on our socio economic condition and also our tradition besides posing a threat to the food security and sovereignty of the Nation.

We are at a loss to understand how such steps can be taken when the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) is yet to be functional. Similarly except for Gajapati and Sundargarh districts the District Level Committee (DLC) is yet to be constituted. Thus there is no accredited body or assigned persons, who will supervise, investigate, accord penalties and suggest remedial measures when things go wrong.

In a communication from the Chief Ministers Office (no 1687/09.08.06) it has been informed that "Bt Cotton cultivation in the State will be discouraged". Moreover our Agriculture Minister Sri Surendra Nath Nayak has stated in the floor of the 2006 Assembly Session that, "No permission will be granted to GM crops in Orissa".

Thus we demand that the required changes be made to the agricultural policy of the State such that;

1. Sustainable and eco friendly agricultural methods should be promoted in the State to increase the yield of nutritious and safe food,
2. Orissa may be kept free from the scourge of GM and declared a "GM free State".

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