Written by Administrator Monday, 16 January 2012 11:16
January 14, 2012
Multan, Punjab, PAKISTAN - - In response to the rejection of Monsanto's BT cotton by Government of Punjab on January 2, the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), an alliance of small and landless farmers, held a press conference on January 12 in Multan, Punjab.
Cotton is an important cash crop for Pakistan known as “white gold”. It accounts for almost 60 percent of the country’s $10 billion annual foreign exchange earnings. More than 20 million people depend on the crop for their livelihood. The Punjab is the largest cotton producing province of the country.
“We appreciated the decision by Punjab government to end negotiations with bio-tech seed giant Monsanto on formally introducing certified imported seed of BT cotton. This technology was creating environmental issues. A number of farmers reported that the new plants caused rashes on skin of farmers and the cotton-picking women were the worst affected,” according to Sainth Bheel, Sindh provincial core group member of PKMT. The PKMT is a member of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC).
The US-based Monsanto claims that BT cotton will ensure a disease-free crop and will stabilize export earnings..The genetically engineered cotton variety will reduce use of chemical pesticides and lower farming costs, they point out.
But the Pakistani farmers say otherwise.
“The government allegedly suspended talks with Monsanto due to the diseases caused by the BT cotton and the high cost was affecting poor farmers. We maintained that the technology was also spreading diseases among animals that ate the plants and cotton cakes as fodder,” remarked M. Sabir, PKMT district coordinator for Rajanpur district
“As early as 2007, Dr. Michael Hansen, a New York based scientist has been telling us that there are findings that the cultivation of BT cotton increased the cost of production substantially as compared to the traditional crop. The expenses were incurred on account of high seed cost, more supplies of irrigation water and fertilizer. The savings were made only on account of insecticide. Besides, the Bt crop was susceptible to heat stress, virus attack and different diseases," argued Fathima Burnad, APC Chairperson based in India.
“With BT cotton, we will not be able to save, exchange or share seeds. At present, more than 85 percent of farmers in the country set aside a portion of the annual harvest for future use as seed,” M. Sabir asserted.
“We congratulate Ahmad Ali Aulakh, Punjab Minister for agriculture, who has been a staunch opponent of finalizing a deal with Monsanto for introduction of its BT cotton seed. We thank him for listening to us. The PKMT started their campaign against BT cotton since 2009. And since then, we are demanding agricultural reconstruction based on ecologically sound, locally developed and managed methods of farming, not corporate agriculture that extracts super profits ,” ended Burnad.
“The rejection of Bt Cotton in Punjab will serve as a precedent case for resisting GM Cotton. Let us not forget that Monsanto's GM corn has been approved for field trials in Pakistan. We will continue our struggle against corporate-led agriculture. We will continue to nurture our traditional seeds and oppose GE seeds. We will struggle for genuine land reform and food sovereignty.” Sainth Bheel concluded. #