Top points to Samar Halarnkar who has the case for and against BT Brinjal clearly cut out in the Hindustan Times. Cogent, balanced and everything you need to know and understand about why Bt Brinjal has everyone — Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, environmentalists, NGOs, farmers and scientists — so worked up.
In 1997, in a field outside Delhi, government regulators forced scientists at the State-run Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to destroy India’s first field of locally designed killer brinjals (aubergines or eggplants to the rest of the world).
India is littered with State institutions that fail their purpose or flatly refuse to crack down on erring colleagues, so the 1997 move against the government-grown brinjals was extraordinary. These were no ordinary brinjals. In the invisible reaches of their DNA, scientists had spliced in a gene that let the brinjals kill a caterpillar, which bores holes into it and forces farmers to use costly and poisonous pesticides. But the IARI scientists lost their field of dreams because they had not followed some of the safety procedures required. more
And from the Indian Express:
Bt brinjal is on indefinite hold because the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, has said there are many questions still to be answered. But the fact is there are many questions the minister needs to answer. We look at the Bt brinjal story from the day Ramesh took charge as Environment Minister, we assess the procedural changes he put in place, and we examine his argument that research in food science is best left to the public sector. As much as the decision he took, it’s also how he came to that decision that has raised troubling issues. More:
Punjab, known for its prosperous wheat farmers, is set to transform into a banana state after the unqualified success of a small experiment with the fruit. From Hindustan Times:
The banana trial started two years ago on a small 10-acre patch of land. The very first crop, says Mewa Singh, a Ludhiana farmer, gave a net profit of Rs 1,50,000 per acre, dramatically lucrative for farm investors. Officials say the average profit per acre for wheat and paddy is no more than Rs 30,000.
Today, Singh is busy handling 2 or 3 enquiries every day about the viability of the crop. He has also become the president of the nascent Banana Growers’ Association.
Punjab rode to riches on the back of high-yielding varieties of wheat which helped the state’s hardy farmers, but that is linked to procurement prices supported by the government. New crops like bananas can suddenly alter this landscape. More
In the country’s poppy-growing provinces, farmers are being forced to sell their daughters to pay loans. From Newsweek:
Khalida’s father says she’s 9-or maybe 10. As much as Sayed Shah loves his 10 children, the functionally illiterate Afghan farmer can’t keep track of all their birth dates. Khalida huddles at his side, trying to hide beneath her chador and headscarf. They both know the family can’t keep her much longer. Khalida’s father has spent much of his life raising opium, as men like him have been doing for decades in the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and on the dusty southern plains. It’s the only reliable cash crop most of those farmers ever had. Even so, Shah and his family barely got by: traffickers may prosper, but poor farmers like him only subsist. Now he’s losing far more than money. “I never imagined I’d have to pay for growing opium by giving up my daughter,” says Shah.