Feb. 13, 2019
Seed body wants ban on Glyphosate and 100% testing of seed samples
The issue of illegal sowing of HT (herbicide-tolerant) cotton has surfaced again with the India Andhra Pradesh government cancelling the licence of one seed company, while suspending licences of 13 other companies for one year.
The State government, which was among the first States to act against the illegal spread of the HT cottonseeds last year, has noticed a similar activity this year, triggering action on the errant firms.
No nod from GEAC
The herbicide-tolerant cottonseed technology has not yet received permission from the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) — the apex Central government agency that receives and considers applications from agri-biotech companies on new technologies and traits.
The RoundUp Ready technology, developed by Monsanto, gives genetic protection to cotton plants to withstand the chemical spray, while the weed, which has no defence, is killed by the herbicide Glyphosate.
Despite the technology not getting GEAC’s approval and restrictions on Glyphosate, farmers get HT seeds from unscrupulous sources.
“We are cancelling the licence of Narmada Sagar AgriSeeds Private Limited of Kurnool,” a State government official said.
Other seed majors such as Nuziveedu Seeds, Kaveri Seeds and Ankur Seeds lose their licences for one year.
The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) said that the Department’s action was only knee-jerk in nature and “it’s letting go the real culprits off the hook.” Responding to the suspension of licences of some of its members on the contamination grounds, the NSAI shot off a three-page note to the Commissioner of Agriculture.
“What the government should do is 100 per cent sampling of all seed lots before they are released in the market. It needs extensive testing to keep tabs,” RK Trivedi, Director (Technical), said.
Reports from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had indicated that 20-30 per cent of the total cotton acreage last year was under the illegal HT cotton.
The area seems to have come down this year.
“It looks like about 15 per cent of the cotton area in Andhra Pradesh this year would be under the HT cotton,” an industry source said.
Asking the Agriculture Department to go for a curative action, the NSAI wanted it to provide holograms on the lots that are screened.
“This will give visibility to the officials at the field level. Any untested lots can be seized,” he said.
“We will provide details of HT cotton illegally cultivated between July and October 2019 (after the kharif sowing). The department can take action against the perpetrators,” he said.
The note, sent to the State government on Monday, wanted a complete ban on Glyphosate to help curb the spread of HT cotton.