Kochi: Kerala minister for agriculture Mulakkara Ratnakaran on Monday asked K.Ramakrishnan, additional director in the agriculture department, to visit the Attapdi hills along the border with Tamil Nadu and submit a report immediately on reports of genetically modified cotton being grown there.
However, it took the Left-led government nearly two years to realize that its stated policy of keeping out GM plants was being violated in the Attapadi hills along the border with Tamil Nadu. The hills, which are adjacent to the Silent Valley National Park, are part of the Nilgiri biosphere reserve. VS Vijayan, chairman of the Biodiversity Board, said that he had visited the Attapadi villages in Pallakad district a few weeks ago and had found about 500 acres of land under cultivation of BT cotton,the plant with a genetically built-in pest repellant.
The current policy of the Kerala government is to eliminate GM crops as well as prevent such crop trials. However, there is no ban on the cultivation of GM crops.
“Incidentally, this has been happening for the last two years. Even the agriculture department was not aware of this,” Vijayan said. Farmers had procured seeds from dealers who promised that the suppliers from neighbouring Coimbatore town would buy back the crop.
Any action in the matter would be on the basis of the agriculture department report and discussions with different departments and agencies concerned VK Uniyal, director of the Attapadi Hills Area Development Society, or AHADS, a government-supported society for eco-restoration, social development and creation of sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribals of Attapadi, said though agriculture did not directly come under the society’s ambit, it would offer all support to the agriculture department.