Akola, June 11 (IANS) A day after defying the ban on GM cotton seeds here, a prominent farmers' body on Tuesday warned that agriculturists will "strongly oppose" any attempts by the government to stop them from using new technology.
"The farmers of Maharashtra will not remain mute like their Haryana counterparts. They will fight all measures by the government if they are prevented from using GM cotton seeds," Shetkari Sanghatana's Technology Cell chief Ajit Narade told IANS.
At a high-profile event on Monday, over 1,000 farmers gathered in a village in Akot sub-district and sowed the banned GM cotton on a two-acre plot.
Addressing them, Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat labelled the opponents of GM crops as 'eco-terrorists' who have failed to show a single scientific evidence of the ill-effects of GM crops.
He said the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the regulatory authority in India, had also given reports favouring GM cultivation, and pointed out that when India consumes all kinds of imported GM foods, why should only farmers be deprived of this advanced technology.
Narade added that presently Maharashtra has among the highest rain-fed area - around four million hectares - under cotton cultivation.
He admitted that some farmers have been using GM cotton seeds acquired from grey markets at exorbitant prices - around Rs 1,200 for a 450 grams pack, compared to Rs 800 for the same in the regulated market.
"If the ban is removed after taking all necessary precautions, the prices will automatically fall and the doors of new technology and prosperity will be opened to farmers," Narade said.
A strong opponent of GM foods, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) President Kishore Tiwari said that since over a year the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing from where these banned cotton seeds are being illegally procured.
"According to reports, they originate from Gujarat and Telangana, but there is no action taken against anybody so far. In view of the severe impact GM seeds can cause to environment and human health, this should be treated as seriously as illegal supply of drugs or arms," Tiwari told IANS.
However, Tiwari said he is open to gradual introduction of advanced technology provided it has no ill-effects and does not lead to monopolization of any particular multinational corporation for supplying the seeds.
On Monday's Akola developments, Tiwari -- who is the Chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, enjoying a Cabinet Minister status -- questioned the claims made by the organisers and urged the government to investigate from where they acquired the seeds illegally since India permits only bollworm protected Bt gene cotton seeds.
Ghanwat has claimed that farmers across India, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh are clamouring for GM crops and would plant them in the upcoming sowing season.
Narade said that its members have been advised to exercise precautions while sourcing the GM seeds, ensure they are from reliable sources, and the farmers should upload their photos and videos on social media.
Ghanwat said that GM seeds are used worldwide, they are cost-effective, pest-resistant, give more profits to the farmers and hence are the need of the hour for Indian farmers who have to compete in the global markets.
Maharashtra banned GM cotton seeds in 2012, allowed for a year and imposed the ban again in 2015, though the Shetkari Sanghatana has been demanding their use since the past two decades.