ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Seeds of Confusion

The violent attack on cotton fields in Raichur, Karnataka and in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, led by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and the shrill reaction from a section of intellectuals/scientists and social scientists to the field experiments being conducted with a genetically engineered variety of cotton by the Maharashtra Hybrid Company (Mahyco), a recently formed subsidiary of the US-based multinational Monsanto, pose some serious issues which may yield disturbing answers - To state the facts, as are known publicly first: Genetically altered cotton seed Bollgard cotton in which a gene of a naturally-occurring soil bacteria has been introduced was first developed by Monsanto in 1995 when it was granted a US patent, Bollgard cotton was tried out in the 1996 season in the cotton growing areas of the US where it was planted on 13 per cent of the fields. The genetic alteration makes the crop relatively safe from bollworm and budworm infestations. While the long term and ecological effects of the crop would necessarily need to be monitored over time, immediately, it offers cotton farmers a crop relatively secure from marauding pests. In India the central government and the department of biotechnology (DBT) have allowed Monsanto to field test the new variety in several locations all over the country, Monsanto or its subsidiary with the US department of agriculture has a patent for gene protection technology popularly termed terminator' technology, which the company says is only a concept and does not exist in reality. But it is this which has prompted the attack on the cotton trial fields the fear that Monsanto is testing these 'terminator' seeds combined with Bollgard cotton. Strangely there does not seem to be sufficient information available that this is indeed the case.

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