Farmers demand hoisting of non-Bt cotton flag on Independence Day

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NEW DELHI: Hundreds of farmers and members of the GM free coalition symbolically gifted an Indian flag made of organic cotton to the prime minister on Thursday. The flag, they said is a symbol of their resistance to Bt cotton, a genetically modified variety that has taken over India’s cotton production. They urged the PM to unfurl the organic cotton flag instead of a Btcotton flag this Independence Day.

The unique protest was primarily against the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, which has a number of clauses that may “facilitate fast track entry of GMOs in agriculture” according to activists. Right to Information (RTI) activists are also opposing the bill has a clause for ‘confidential commercial information’ that cannot be revealed even under RTI.

The gathering on Thursday at Parliament Street included groups from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, National Federation of IndianWomen, Right to Food campaign, Greenpeace India. It also saw members of political parties like BJP, Congress, CPIM, CPI, Janata Dal, BSP, Biju Janata Dal, Telegu Desam Party, DMK and others.

“Over 93% of Indian cotton seed has the proprietary technology of an American MNC. We request the PM to hoist an organic, Indian cotton flag because it will be symbolic of seed sovereignty,” said Pankaj Bhushan, co-convener of GM-Free India. The activists said that the BRAI bill is “problematic” because it proposes to set up a centralized single window clearance system for GM and biotech crops; it takes away decision making powers of the state governments on open field trials.

“The final report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of Supreme Court has stated that open air field trials of GM crops have to be stopped and effort to introduce Bt in food crops is not advisable. It has many other recommendations that need to be considered. Why is the government pushing the BRAI bill and ignoring such reports?” asked Kavitha Kuruganti of Aliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

Soirce: India Times

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