Farmers destroy DuPont transgenic rice

A transgenic rice variety, currently under trials at the Krishi
Vignan Kendra of the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS) in Doddaballapur taluk, near here, was destroyed by farmers on Wednesday.

A group of sickle-wielding farmers, owing allegiance to the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), barged into the 30-acre KVK premises at Hadonahalli, where the hybrid rice Seed Production Technology (SPT) developed by DuPont is undergoing ‘event selection trials' on a one-acre area, and committed the

About 30 activists entered the fenced one-acre area around 8.40 a.m., and destroyed the crop in about an hour's time before the Doddaballapur Rural
police arrested them.

75 p.c. loss

An official at KVK estimated that the farmers destroyed about 75 per cent of the crop. Following the incident, the UAS has decided to destroy the remaining crop and cancel the field trial.

"The UAS has undertaken the trial clandestinely, and farmers in the neighbourhood have been kept in the dark.

"We will not allow field trials of transgenic crops developed by
multinational companies in our area," KRRS leader and veterinarian C.S. Srinivas, told The Hindu. For, there is always a fear of contamination, he said.

The event selection trials have been approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee .

According to a Greenpeace activist, SPT technology is a proprietary technology of DuPont that allows increase of large quantities of genetically male sterile female inbred parent seed.

A top UAS official said that the project came to the university through Union Department of Biotechnology for a period of one year, and that the university was only a facilitator and regulator of bio-safety on field.

"It is unfortunate that the incident took place when the paddy was ready for harvesting over the next 7 to 10 days."

Display boards put up at the field on information about the trials said that the paddy had been sown between July 20 and July 23, and transplanted on August 12.

The duration of the crop is 140 days.

The trial is being monitored by Head, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding at UAS Shailaja Hittalmani, while N. Rajanna is the Programme Coordinator.

A few farmers owning land in close proximity to the research station also said that they had been asked not to grow paddy during this season.

"I normally grow paddy, but the university authorities asked me not to raise paddy crop this season. We were not told the reason," N. Srinivas, who owns two acres adjoining the KVK, said and added that the authorities had informed about the possible crossing if he raised paddy during this season.

Meanwhile, vice-president fo the KRRS Venkata Reddy said that the genetically modified rice field trials had major violations and that the local panchayat was not informed. Though the Hadonahalli Gram Panchayat president H.A. Nagaraju acknowledged that information of the field trials had not been given to the panchayat, he, however, said KVK had benefited
farmers in the vicinity.

Sixteen farmers who were arrested on charges of trespassing and destruction of property were later released on bail.

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