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Government apathy tosses Karnataka farmers at mercy of private firm

Monday, 7 July 2014 - 6:31am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The Bt cotton seeds that resulted the loss of around Rs 200 crore to farmers in Karnataka last year are haunting them once again. With government turning a blind eye, the farjmers are ;eft with no option but to return to the private company Mahyco’s genetically modified seeds that created a mayhem last year on the fields.

Estimates show that crop failed in 58,195 hectares area in 1,983 villages spread over seven districts Karnataka, affecting 54,000 farmers. After the loss to farmers was estimated to be over Rs 200 crores, the state government blacklisted the company and banned its distribution of seeds. The ban, however, was lifted by the Karnataka High Court on technical grounds.

The company Mahyco is now again in the fields, selling these seeds. But this time, it is allegedly arm twisting farmers to sign an undertaking absolving them of all responsibilities in case of crop failure.

Famer association are also up in arms against government apathy. "Karnataka government is hand in glove with the private company due to which farmers of the state are suffering. Government inaction is allowing Mahyco to openly sell its defective seeds in market, that too without any liability," Manjunatha Holalau, Co convener Coalition for GM free Karnataka told dna.

"For a loss of around Rs 200 crores, the company offered to farmers just Rs 10 crores. How will that compensate farmers? If these seeds can cause such huge losses, what is the harm in having an insurance cover for them? A liability clause should be put on GM crops by government to save farmers," Manjunath said.

He further explained that as the GM seed had given a better yield a couple of years ago farmers hoping for better yield are again buying GM seed but are now forced to sign an undertaking that absolves Mahyco of any responsibility in case of seed failure. Another contentious point is, why should the state government use tax payers money to compensate the farmers and let the private company get away without paying a complete compensation?

When dna asked Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (Mahyco) for a comment on the issue, Mahyco refused to comment. "We appreciate you reaching out to us for our perspective, however since the matter is sub-judice we are not in a position to comment on the same," said the reply from Mahyco.

Greenpeace’s campaigner Manvendra Singh, who is also working on the issue, said: "While the corporates get a free hand to blindly pursue their profits, its the farmers who are crushed under the shocks of their faulty seeds. A diverse gene pool for cotton would not have left thousands acres in waste. Are we ready for a paradigm shift?"

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