Farmers, NGOs call for ban on Bt cotton seed

Post Source: Dawn August 09, 2009

HYDERABAD, Aug 8: Representatives of farmers, agriculturists and NGOs on Saturday termed cultivation of Bt cotton a conspiracy against farmers and peasants of the province and urged the government to ban the genetically modified seed, which, they claimed, was highly poisonous and harmful for humans as well as for animals.

Speaking at a news conference at the press club, the executive director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and Pacific, Ms Sarojeni Rengam, and executing director of Roots for Equity, Dr Azra Talat Sayeed, demanded that the government should immediately put an end to all land deeds being negotiated with foreign governments and investors and check the operation of Monsanto and other agro-chemical companies which were promoting genetically modified crops, especially Bt cotton.

They said that the past years had witnessed a constant onslaught of corporate agriculture to the detriment of millions of small farmers in the country and condemned introduction of Bt cotton, which they said, was extremely harmful not only for humans but also for animals.

They regretted that the corporate farming ordinance promulgated by Musharraf regime was now being used by the democratic government.

Nearly six million acres of land was said to be leased out to foreign investors and countries from the Middle East, they said, adding, that that investors from the UAE had already started negotiations with provincial governments including Sindh to acquire land in Shikarpur, Larkana and Sukkur.

They said that the government had promised the investors 500,000 hectares of land as well as a security force of 100,000 to protect their assets.

They pointed out that Pakistan suffered from food insecurity yet it was willing to lease out land to foreign investors to enable them to take away the food grown in the country.

They feared that the land given to corporate sector would be ruthlessly exploited by the investors by using in tense mechanised farming methods and high use of pesticides.

Pesticides were poison and a major cause of toxic contamination of lands, water and food sources and were dangerous to human health, they said.

The NGO leaders said that pesticide had proven to be cause of many forms of acute diseases, including physical and mental retardation.

Pakistan continued to import and use many highly hazardous pesticides, including Endosulfan, which was banned in many countries including the European Union, they said, adding, that it was acutely toxic to humans and animals.

They said that last year, the government signed an MoU with Monsanto to allow the US seed company to introduce Bt cotton in the country.

They strongly opposed cultivation of Bt cotton because, they argued, it attracted severe pest attack.

They urged the government to provide agricultural inputs at subsidised prices to small farmers and food producers.

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