Seed manufacturers seek action against sale of illegal transgenic cotton
The Federation of Seed Industries of India, the apex body of seed manufacturers in the country, has repeatedly taken up the matter with state governments as well as the Centre, but they say concrete action is lacking.
Ahead of kharif season planting, seed manufacturers have raised red flags over rampant sale of illegal transgenic genetically modified (GM) cotton. This year, industry sources say that a record high of 90 lakh packets of this illegal variant is expected to be sold, covering nearly 20 per cent of the 120 lakh hectares or more cotton area in the country.
BT (Bacillus Thuringinesis) cotton is the only GM cotton allowed for commercial cultivation in the country. It is preferred by farmers as it is resistant to the pink bollworm (PBW).
Another transgenic version, Herbicide Tolerant (HT) BT cotton, is yet to be legalised in India. Farmers can spray Glyphosate, a wide-spectrum herbicide, to control weeds in the fields when they plant HT BT cotton. The only other alternative available for farmers is manual weeding, which is both time-consuming and costly.
Over the last few years, farmers have veered towards HT BT, although this variant is illegal. Initially covering only 5-6 per cent of the area, the area under this variant has steadily grown to 17 per cent last year. But this year, industry insiders say sale of this variant is expected to cross 90 lakh packets. “The record high prices the lint crop fetched in the markets will lead to farmers dumping other crops for cotton. Given the easy availability of HT BT cotton, many farmers will obviously go for it,” said a source.
According to sources, more than 18,000 acres of land, mainly in Gujarat, have been dedicated for growing this variant. Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh also have pockets where seed production of this illegal transgenic variant takes place.
Industry sources say over the last few years, the Shetkari Sanghatana has started a movement for openly growing this variant. “This has emboldened many to take up the cultivation of the same,” they said.
The Federation of Seed Industries of India, the apex body of seed manufacturers in the country, has repeatedly taken up the matter with state governments as well as the Centre, but they say concrete action is lacking. The industry body had demanded portable kits be made available with field officers to test cotton seed production areas and destroy crops where HT BT is found.
“The only way the sale of this illegal transgenic version can be stopped is by nipping production in the bud. It is difficult to control the sale once the seeds are packed,” industry insiders said.
Other than the legal angle, farmers also face a greater chance of being duped as there is no accountability while purchasing these packets.
Source – TheIndianExpress