The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) on Friday urged the Centre to take action against sudden surge in illegal cultivation of herbicide tolerant (HT) Bt cotton in the country this year. If the sale of unapproved HT-BT cotton seed is not stopped, it would spell disaster for the industry and farmers, it said in a statement. The NSAI said regulators are only limiting their checking to licensed dealers and seed companies while this illegal activity of HT seed sales is carried mostly by unorganised and fly-by night operators. Focus must be shifted to catching them and taking exemplary and strong punitive action.
Seed industry bodies have made representation in this regard to Union Agriculture and Environment Ministries and sought immediate action, it added. “It was being grown in major cotton growing states for several years at a lower intensity, but the sale has suddenly shot up this year posing a serious threat to the environment, farmers, legitimate seed companies and government revenue,” the industry bodies said. The FSII and the NSAI said the issue was raised in Parliament way back in 2017 following which the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) was set up under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) by the Prime Minister’s Office.
This committee had confirmed that HT Bt cotton is illegally grown across the country. The FISEC panel, after testing several thousand samples, concluded that about 15 per cent prevalence of unapproved HT Bt cotton were in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat, they added. “The area under cultivation of illegal HT cotton has been increasing over the years. However, this year there is a big jump in such illegal cultivation especially in the major cotton states from estimated 35 lakh packets last year to about 70 lakh packets this year,” FSII chairman M Ramasami said.
The packs show the presence of many technologies which could pose a very serious situation in the field, he said, and warned, “If it is not controlled immediately by the governments, it will spell disaster for the industry and farmers.” Expressing concern, NSAI President Prabhakar Rao said: “It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in India.” To make matters worse, the illegal seeds are sold using the brand name of prominent companies. With this, farmers are at risk with such illegal cotton seed sale as there is no accountability of the quality of seed, he said.
Such illegal seed pollutes the environment and the industry is losing legitimate seed sale and the government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection, he added The spread of illegal seeds can also contaminate legitimate seed production thereby putting seed production farmers to heavy losses, the industry bodies observed.