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Farmers protest over GM seeds
Critics say seeds threaten health and agricultureFarmers protest over government plans for GM seeds
- ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
- Sri Lanka
- October 16, 2012
Religious leaders joined farmers and civil society leaders in the protests after the government recently reversed approval for nearly 3,000 local seed varieties in favor of GM alternatives produced by multinationals.
Farmers have since rejected GM varieties, claiming they would contaminate the farm land and cause losses for farmers who have invested in local seeds.
â€śCompanies are trying to sabotage and eliminate native production which has been historically developed by rural farmers,â€ť said Kankanam Pathirange Somawathi, president of the Savithri womenâ€™s movement in Monaragala.
GM seeds lead to dependence on monopolistic multinational firms, she added, with potentially devastating results for Sri Lankaâ€™s farming sector.
Protesters said they plan to send a petition to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, calling on the government to protect farmersâ€™ rights to continue using their own seeds and fertilizers.
Doctor Channa Sudath Jayasumana, a lecturer of pharmacology at Rajarata University in Anuradhapura, said GM seeds and associated products were rising in price, increased environmental degradation and posed health concerns for farmers and the general public.
â€śMillions of people across the world â€“ especially in Latin American and African countries â€“ are badly suffering today due to GM-seed produced foods,â€ť he said.
A new seed act proposed by the government would also limit the rights of farmers to operate small-scale seed banks, said environmentalist and lawyer Jagath Gunawardane.
But Robin Abegunawardene, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, said the government was aiming to maintain the quality of seeds through the proposed act.
â€śThe Ministry drafted this bill after consulting many people, including farmers,â€ť he said.
Nearly 900,000 families â€“ about 20 percent of the population â€“ are involved in paddy production in Sri Lanka with the farming sector responsible for employing about a third of all working people.
Call to ban deadly pesticides