18 June 2021, New Delhi: Quality seeds for farmers is the first step towards growing quality produce and better yield. Research and development ensure that the challenges faced by farmers are resolved and they get better varieties to fight pests and diseases. However, unscrupulous activities by anti-social elements damage the trust of farmers and the brands which have been built with years of investment and R&D. Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and National Seed Association of India (NSAI) want to highlight the sudden surge in cultivation of illegal HTBT Cotton this year.
It is being grown in major cotton growing states since 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.During 2017, it was highlighted in Lok Sabha that farmers were cultivating unapproved herbicide tolerance (HT) transgenic cotton hybrids illegally in many states.
Thereafter, the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) was set up under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) by the Prime Minister Office and this committee confirmed that HT genetically modified cotton is illegally grown across the country. The FISEC panel, after testing several thousand samples, concluded that about 15 percent prevalence of unapproved HT cotton are in major states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat. Dr M Ramasami, Chairman, Rasi Seeds and Chairman, FSII said, “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.
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The packs show the presence of many technologies which could pose a very serious situation in the field. If it is not controlled immediately by the governments, it will spell disaster for the industry and farmers.”
Mr Prabhakar Rao, President, NSAI 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. It pollutes the environment, the industry is losing legitimate seed sale and the government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection.
Regulators are only limiting their checking to licensed dealers and seed companies while this illegal activity of HT seed sales is carried mostly by unorganized and fly by night operators. Focus must be shifted to catching them and taking exemplary and strong punitive action. ”The spread of illegal seeds can also contaminate legitimate seed production thereby putting seed production farmers to heavy losses.
Looking at the seriousness of the situation, FSII and NSAI have written to the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India and GEAC to provide suitable instruction to the authorities for taking necessary action to stop the spread of such illegal activities and take immediate strict action against the offenders.