If you are reading this news item in English, chances are that you are lucky not to be grazing sheep and cattle on Indian BT cotton fields of Andhra Pradesh. However, if you are a non vegetarian, be ready for taking risk assessments for your health if you eat meat from sheep grazed on Indian farms.
Indian sheep have been dying of mysterious reasons, totally unexamined by Indian agricultural and scientific establishment. Maybe Indian agricultural research establishment is composed of only of scientists who are totally vegetarians.
The Andhra Pradesh government has advised farmers not to allow animals to graze on Bt cotton fields after four institutes reported the presence of toxins in them.
Goats and sheep grazing on post-harvest Bt cotton fields were found dead in Warangal and Adilabad districts in 2006 and in the first two months of 2007.
The Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, the Western Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the department of agriculture, NG Ranga Agriculture University found the presence of nitrates and nitrites, and residues of organophosphates in Bt cotton plants.
Dr L Mohan, director, Andhra Pradesh animal husbandry department, said: “The deaths have resulted in huge economic losses for farmers.”
Andhra Pradesh, which had earlier moved the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices tribunal against the high price of Bt seeds, said no bio-safety studies of Bt cotton seeds had yet been conducted.
MK Sharma, managing director, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd, makers of the genetically modified Bt cotton, said: “Bt cotton is being grown in nine states, and no such complaint has come except from a few villages in Andhra. We conducted safety studies before the trials and all Bt seeds were found to be safe.”
The Andhra government has informed the union ministry of environment and forests about its findings. The ministry has ordered a probe.
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