Unapproved Cotton Seeds being sold Illegally in India

Unapproved herbicide tolerant (HT) genetically modified (GM) cottonseed has been selling like hotcakes illegally in Maharashtra especially. The illegality is bound to put farmers at risk in states where cotton grows such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

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Unapproved Cotton Seeds being sold Illegally in India

Approvals of seeds such as the cotton seed are usually done by the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry, and the agency tasked to decide on commercialization of GM crops. However, they are still awaiting the final report of an expert committee which was set up by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)  October last year.

There is a stringent process it goes through before being approved. The main target was to remove herbicide tolerant from the Kharif season of 2018.

There are also measures to stop glyphosate which is known to cause kidney failures after penetrating the water in the farms. Countries like Sri Lanka have already banned glyphosate leading to a much healthier environment. India needs to keep their levels intact and follow the footpath of a more disciplined farming sector.

According to a senior seed industry official, the illegal HT cotton seeds will be much more than last year.

“Last year, sales of illegal HT cotton seeds were estimated at 3.5 million packets and this year it is likely to cross 6 million packets,” said the senior seed industry official who asked to remain unnamed.

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“Most of the 46 companies producing GM cotton seeds in India are indulging in illegal seed production and sale,” the person said. “Farmers evidently like this new technology so governments are unwilling to act, worried about the political fallout ahead of general elections next year,” the official continued.

“The (unapproved) technology has spread into farmers fields like water and enough packets are available for sale in cotton growing regions of Maharashtra… The problem is that if these seeds fail (since quality is suspect because of illegal production) farmers have no one to blame,” said C.D. Mayee, president of the Delhi-based non-profit South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC). “Most Hyderabad-based seed companies are involved. Both FISEC and GEAC should have acted fast. It will be difficult to check the spread now,” he said.

The State that is to blame is Gujurat as the illegal seeds are being produced there, and sold all over India. The worst part is the government is not taking action against these big seed companies.

Apparently, these unapproved seed packets are at INR 1,500 and is almost double the price of approved seeds which are INR 740.

HT is seen to help farmers as glyphosate can be sprayed on top and avoid the weed infestation that takes place. HT cotton plants are immune to such chemicals.