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Mainstream, VOL LV No 50 New Delhi December 2, 2017

Who is Responsible for the Deaths of these Farmers in Maharashtra?

Saturday 2 December 2017, by Bharat Dogra



The Hindu reported on October 6, quoting official sources, that 11 farmers and farm workers had died at the VNGMC Hospital in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra due to exposure to pesticides during the last five weeks while over 472 farmers have been admitted to the hospital for the same pesticide-related health problems during the last three months. Five farmers remained critical on life-support systems.

Earlier The Times of India had reported the number of pesticide poisoning deaths in this district to be 18. Others had reported cases of some farmers being blinded. The Hindu also reported the case of a pesticide sprayer and cultivator of Bt cotton whose body shook so much and who had lost his senses to such an extent that he had to be tied to a bed with ropes for a long time and it took 12 men to control him.

This is an area widely known for the cultivation of Bt Cotton crop which is a genetically modified (GM) crop. The health hazards of GM crops have been extensively documented by reputed scientists in various parts of the world.

It has also been noticed by reputed scientists that while several GM crop lobbyists had promised a reduction of dangerous pesticides and other agri-chemicals, actually an increase has been observed at many places growing GM crops.

Therefore while investigating the causes of these very tragic deaths as well as the way forward for avoiding such tragedies in future, the entire issue of how our farming is becoming more hazardous due to the adoption of GM crops like Bt Cotton should be kept in mind.

This question is very relevant at present as powerful and resourceful lobbyists are hard at work in India today to somehow or the other obtain approval for GM food crops. If the hazards are so great in the case of GM cotton, how much higher these would be in the case of GM food crops? We need to be very alert to protect our farmers and farming.

Bharat Dogra

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