Calls for Bt cotton seed ban in Andhra Pradesh (2/4/2007)

Calls for Bt cotton seed ban in AP
Uma Sudhir
NDTV, April 1 2007 (Hyderabad)

The government of Andhra Pradesh has called for a ban on Bt cotton seeds after the death of cattle grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committed has said the problem requires scientific investigation. It has sent a fact-finding team to the affected areas.

Cattle deaths have been reported in the districts of Adilabad, Khammam and Warangal districts.

"We have given this message that not just goat and sheep, even cattle are also affected with this poison, so better not to graze," says Dr Laxmi Rajam, Additional Director of the Animal Husbandry Department.

"We will also write to the commissioner of agriculture to give clear instructions not to sell Bt cotton seeds in the coming season".

Shepherds from 12 districts protested in Hyderabad blaming the government of inaction despite the loss of livelihood for the third consecutive year.

"After grazing on non-Bt fields, there is no problem. Only after grazing on Bt leaves, sheep and goat are dying," the secretary of Shepherds and Goatherds Union said.

"It is not just us who are saying that. Even the animal husbandry department and veterinary doctors have said that in their primary reports".

The department had issued an advisory to shepherds and goatherds to avoid Bt cotton fields but that did not reach people. Urimekala Kotaiah in Khamman lost 10 of his 50 sheep in two weeks.

"The government is allowing the sale of these seeds, so only if they ban the seeds, this problem can be solved because our sheep necessarily graze in open fields," Kotaiah said.

Reacting to the reports, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech quotes the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which has said Bt cotton was released for commercial cultivation after evaluation of bio safety data, which includes feeding studies.

The state agriculture department has initiated an independent study.


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