Mumbai: Farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra have criticised the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) parliamentary candidate for the Chandrapur seat, who they accuse of being a strong supporter of genetically modified (GM) seeds,
Impoverished farmers in this region oppose GM seeds.
“We are shocked with the selection of the AAP candidate especially when Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav are working as core group members of the Political Affairs Committee of AAP advocating that the monopolies of MNCs [multinational corporations] and free trade coupled with GM seed technology is killing the Vidarbha farmers,” Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) told Gulf News.
Tiwari said Bhushan had in fact been lobbying to ban Bt cotton seeds and toxic GM food in India as well as advocating universal food security for all tribals and dryland farmers.
He urged the AAP to change their Chandrapur candidate, Wamanrao Chatap, “in order to save AAP’s credibility before the nation.”
According to him, the AAP, on the one hand, is giving a ticket to a candidate who is a close associate of Sharad Joshi — a farm leader and supporter of GM Bt cotton seeds who is anti-Food Security Act — while simultaneously giving a ticket to Medha Patkar, a well-known social activist.
“Obviously, there is a communication gap among AAP leaders, which is unfortunate.”
Last year, Tiwari said, Chatap had openly criticised the Food Security Act of the UPA government, describing it as anti-farmer, would fuel inflation and destroy dignity of labour.
However Tiwari said that with the monopoly, particularly of Monsanto, in the sale of GM Bt cotton seeds in Vidarbha, cultivating cotton as a cash crop was becoming too expensive for small farmers.
“Today, we only have to depend on GM Bt cotton seeds since indigenous seeds are unavailable. In a situation where cotton cultivation is unsustainable, food security for farmers is of utmost importance. Therefore, our worry is what if such candidates come to power and ignore the needs of small farmers — constituting around 3 million cotton farmers and 5 million food starved tribals of Vidarbha region,” he asks anxiously.
Recently, the AAP said, “It is to be remembered that seed sovereignty is akin to national sovereignty in an agrarian country like ours and it is unacceptable that the UPA government plans to sell our swaraj/sovereignty lock stock and barrel to biotech seed companies.”
It condemned the action of Environment Minister Veerappa Moily to “approve these field trials and make this country a laboratory for risky GM crops and demand that all field trials be stopped and an inquiry initiated on the undue hurry of the minister’s action.”